After a yearlong undercover operation in Kansas City, MO, 61 people have been charged with firearms violations, drug trafficking or other crimes.
Following a news conference announcing the results, members of the No Violence Alliance took to the streets to try to help others before they too go down the wrong path.
"This was the largest federal roundup ever conducted in this district as the result of a single investigation," U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri Tammy Dickinson said. "We are taking dozens of violent criminals off the street and hundreds of illegal guns out of circulation. Kansas City is a safer city today as a result of this operation."
"The goal of this investigation was to remove the worst of the worst from Kansas City," ATF Special Agent in Charge Marino F. Vidoli said.
In a three-day sting this week, 150 law enforcement officers on local, state and federal levels arrested 28 defendants.
"This investigation is a testament to the NoVA partnership and is just the beginning. These indictments demonstrate our message that violence will not be tolerated," Vidoli said.
Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said that this operation will have a significant impact on gun crime in Kansas City and the new Kansas City NoVA program. NoVA is a group that involves law enforcement on all levels as well as city officials.
"This operation shows we mean what we say," Baker said.
The target of the past year has been on career criminals with violent tendencies and, according to Dickenson, that who they captured. Most were already on law enforcement radar from previous convictions or investigations.
"This undercover operation targeted armed criminals and violent felons who carry guns. Two-thirds (of those arrested) have prior felony convictions and more than half are on probation and parole," Dickinson said.
Current gun laws say it is illegal for anyone convicted of a felony, drug trafficking or users of controlled substances to possess any firearm or ammunition.
In addition to the arrests, 222 firearms including handguns, assault rifles and sawed-off shotguns were seized. Several have already been linked to open unsolved homicide investigations.
"These firearms will no longer be able to be used to victimize the citizens of Kansas City," Vidoli said.
But there's more to the operation, according to Baker. With a massive round up like this officials said it leaves an opening in the criminal world and too often there are plenty of people willing to step up and fill that void.
Not only is NoVA doing everything they can to keep criminals off the street, they are also giving those known associates to convicted criminals a way out. Friday afternoon they picked a few known associates of the suspects now in custody. They will be offered resources to assist them and rehabilitate themselves to become productive members of society.
"There is another way and that is the resources we hope to offer and the message we hope to offer to others that are involved in criminal networks - there is an opportunity for change if they choose to take it," Baker said.
Officers are actively looking for the remaining fugitives still not in custody.
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