By Ashley Luthern
An FBI supervisory special agent says he wants to bring the crime-fighting techniques used in Youngstown across the border to Boardman.
Jon Holloway, who also is is the head of the Mahoning Valley Violent Crimes Task Force, spoke to township trustees earlier this week and explained what the task force and FBI can do to help deter criminals.
“I apparently did my job a little too well. I pushed some gang members into Boardman from Youngstown,” he said.
Holloway said there are 28 active street gangs in Youngstown, not including the three national biker gangs in the area. Of the 28 street gangs, “there are currently four that are at war on the South Side shooting each other,” he said.
“The gangs are funding themselves not just through drug trafficking, but also from street robberies, kick-in burglaries and stolen autos and insurance fraud,” Holloway said.
Holloway said the FBI has evidence that gang crime is migrating to Boardman, but still needs more information.
“You are having a huge heroin problem here,” Holloway told trustees. “You have a market here and you have some sellers here.”
He added that in one ongoing gang case, 40 percent of the gang’s drug customers are Boardman residents.
“They’re coming over [to Youngstown] and buying. Where are they getting money to buy heroin? They’re stealing stuff from Boardman. We’re trying to attack that,” he said.
In order to gather more information, Holloway said he wants to do “knock and talks,” meaning task force officers suit up in full gear, walk streets and knock on doors to talk to residents.
“We’re going to be out here more often,” he said.
“... If we knock on your neighborhood, don’t think you live in a bad neighborhood. I’m also putting a picture together of what’s going on in Boardman because ... we need to address it.”
He also plans to have a quarterly crime summit, such as those in Youngstown.
“Basically you tell me what the problems are, and I tell you what I can try to do about it. When they come back for the next summit, I should have some results about what I’ve done,” Holloway said.
He added that he would like to have the first crime summit in late November or early December at St. Dominic Church in Youngstown because it previously has hosted the regional summits. After that, the summits would alternate between Boardman, Youngstown and other locations.
Boardman Police Chief Jack Nichols said several members of his department are, or have been, part of the violent crimes task force and that the partnership is beneficial. He added that the department’s narcotics unit has done the “knock and talk” strategy with success.
“We have pockets of activity,” Nichols said. “I’d like to go to addresses where ,information has come in and ... have a conversation.”
Chuck Coristin, a co-founder of the New England Lanes neighborhood watch in Boardman, said he thinks the strategies are a good idea. Nichols and Holloway attended the group’s Monday meeting.
“We’re going to participate in the summit,” Coristin said.
He also said that he is planning to attend an Oct. 22 meeting of Youngstown block watches to learn from them and share ideas.
“[We need] to get some cohesiveness and I am 100 percent for that,” Coristin said.
Holloway said ideally he would have a task force member assigned to each block watch in Youngstown and Boardman, but he doesn’t have the staff to do that.
He also mentioned another growing problem in Boardman: drug sellers using houses in Boardman to stash their drugs and guns while operating a sale house in Youngstown. Holloway said criminals turned to that strategy because of the success of the multi-agency Violence Gun Reduction and Interdiction Program (VGRIP). V-GRIP’s main aim is to take guns off the streets.
“It gets out when you’re doing that type of interdiction,” Holloway said.
Now when law enforcement search a suspected drug house, they don’t see the guns or stash of drugs that they used to, he said.
“The lion’s share of the work has been in Youngstown, and I think personally that we’re pushing it other places,” Holloway said. “I’m seeing things in Warren that I didn’t see before, and I’m seeing things in Boardman that I didn’t see before.”