250 arrests, 147 guns tallied in 2011 Mahoning Valley anti-crime initiative

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Steven Dettelbach, left, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, and Warren Police Chief Tim Bowers were among law-enforcement participants on hand Tuesday for an update in Warren on the Violence Gun Reduction and Interdiction Program.

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By Ed Runyan



Another 147 firearms were seized from the streets of Youngstown and Warren during this year’s V-GRIP initiative, 106 of them from Youngstown, 41 from Warren.

Ten indictments were filed in federal court, as well as scores of others in state court, and 250 people were arrested on warrants, said Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, who got the Violence Gun Reduction and Interdiction Program going in 2010.

Last fall, Dettelbach reported that V-GRIP had removed 150 firearms — 114 from Youngstown, 36 from Warren. The work resulted in 15 federal indictments and 600 arrests in 2010.

On Tuesday, at a news conference in Warren City Council chambers, Dettelbach introduced the dozens of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies that participated in V-GRIP.

These are the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, ATF and DEA, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Adult Parole Authority, Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office and Sheriff’s Department, Youngstown and Warren police departments, Mahoning Valley Law Enforcement Task Force and Trumbull County Probation Department.

V-GRIP made its first appearance in Youngstown in 2003 and greatly reduced homicides and other serious crimes that summer.

V-GRIP brings agencies and resources together for increased patrols and targeted enforcement activities. Dettelbach described targeted enforcement as “working together to identify the worst of the worst and to work our way methodically down the list of those people who are the most dangerous to our community.”

“Every single federal and state law-enforcement agency involved here demonstrated over and over again that they care only about getting guns and criminals off the streets — not about turf,” he said. “This is really the anti-turf effort because nobody here has been concerned for one second about who gets credit. It’s more just about who gets arrested.”

Dettelbach pointed to the Sept. 1 arrest of two Pennsylvania men on McCartney Road in Youngstown as being among the more successful efforts this year.

Officers arrested three men in a Jeep Cherokee trying to sell seven shotguns and three rifles in the city that they had stolen from a home in Enon Valley, Pa., earlier in the day. They were Billy H. Gray Jr., 44, of Enon Valley and Troy D. Hockeyberry, 29, of Ellwood City. Both were prohibited from possessing firearms because of previous felony convictions.

On Sept. 3, Mill Creek Park police arrested Jeremy Betts, 26, of Campbell after finding him in possession of a sawed-off shotgun that he had concealed in a stroller that was carrying a baby.

In both cases, the suspects are being prosecuted through the federal courts.

Dettelbach said his office is also working on a anti-gang initiative in Youngstown that includes “Operation Forecast,” which involves the Youngstown Police Department, Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority and social- service providers sharing data to track crime trends.

Warren Police Chief Tim Bowers thanked U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott for working “side by side” with his officers and sheriff’s deputies.

The V-GRIP concept has grown since its start in 2003 and is now being used in other communities, especially Toledo and Lima and Cleveland, Dettelbach said.

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