(WAFF) - In an effort to reduce violent crime across north Alabama, federal agents say they have charged 29 people part of their crackdown.
“These individuals account for hundreds of prior arrests and dozens of prior felony convictions," said U.S. Attorney Jay Town.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and ATF joined with the Huntsville Police Department, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Huntsville Police Department, City of Madison Police Department, Madison County District Attorney’s Office, Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, Marshall County District Attorney’s Office, Guntersville Police Department, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in an intense effort to charge violent offenders and take guns off the streets.
“I can’t tell you exactly what this is going to do to your crime rate," explained David Hyche Assistant Special Agent in charge with the ATF, "but what I can tell you is that every person that we arrest and put in federal prison for 8 or 9 years will not be shooting anybody.”
At least 45 guns and a “countless” value of narcotics were seized. Some guns were purchased illegally, but most were stolen.
Authorities remind you to always store your weapons in a safe place.
“A lot of the guns that are represented here and taken in these investigations are stolen guns," explained Hyche. "Some are also brought illegally, but a good portion of them are stolen from law abiding gun owners, vehicles and homes. I would like to encourage everyone to please secure your firearms and write down your make, model and serial number for all of your guns and keep that stored separately from where you keep your guns.”
The 29 individuals account for nearly 360 prior arrests and 68 felony convictions. According to authorities, that breaks down to about 12 arrests per person.
“Violent crime and violent criminals, especially our worst offenders, continue to be our highest priority for prosecution,” Town said. “It is my judgment that the law abiding public deserves the continued best efforts and partnerships of law enforcement to rid our streets of these violent criminals, these repeat offenders, and these trigger-pullers. Once convicted, these habitual felons will be rewarded with neatly tucked bedding awaiting them in a state or federal penitentiary. Our communities are safer due to the relentless and tireless work of the ATF and so many other of our local, state, and federal partners.”
The U.S. Attorney’s office reports that the majority of the defendants charged are violent offenders. Below are some of the noteworthy investigations.
- Roger Johnson - He was arrested after a pipe bomb detonated in the vicinity of a Jackson County deputy and Johnson’s mother in relation to a civil dispute. No injuries were sustained.
- Daniel Steele - Agents recovered numerous unregistered machine guns, to include a Colt belt-fed .50 caliber machine gun, smoke grenades and templates for Glock conversion devices from Steele. Steele had no prior criminal history and was not on anyone’s radar.
- Barry Williams, Melvin Rolin, Marcus Kyle and Britney Black - Alleged members of the Froggy Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO). In an interview with ATF, Rolin said he was responsible for distributing at least 200 kilograms of methamphetamine in north Alabama within a two-year period as the head of the DTO. Numerous firearms were recovered from the DTO, including a converted AK-47 machine gun that ATF seized in Tennessee.
- Victor Ortiz-Castillo - Illegal alien in possession of a firearm after he was allegedly involved in a shooting at a residence in Huntsville.
- Rex Tidmore - Agents say he is a prior felon who had numerous firearms, an underground marijuana grow, and an outside marijuana grow. He was indicted for felon in possession, possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance.
In fiscal 2018, the United States Attorney’s Office Northern District of Alabama prosecutions of illegal firearms cases rose 27 percent to 286, which is the largest number of illegal firearms prosecutions ever recorded in the Northern District of Alabama and accounted for about half of all federal prosecutions by the United States Attorney’s Office. The previous high was 225, which was recorded in fiscal 2017.
Nationally, the prosecution of illegal firearms defendants accounts for approximately one in six of all federal prosecutions.
Project Safe Neighborhoods, the premier violent crimes reduction program reinvigorated by the Department of Justice in 2017, has continued to focus on habitual felony offenders engaged in violent behavior and the department continues to break its own records for federal prosecutions as a result.
“The final end result is a safer community. That’s what we’re all hoping for and we want this message to get out to everybody in North Alabama," said Huntsville Chief of Police Mark McMurray. "If you want to perform these type of violent criminal activities, there is a combined effort that’s looking for you because we’re not going to allow it.”