Operation Violence Reduction: Police strike back against criminals

The U.S. Marshal Service and state and local police officers are striking back against criminals. For the last six weeks, officers have scoured the streets snatching up criminals and seizing guns, illegal weapons and drugs.

The initiative was called Operation Violence Reduction 7. And more than 100 fugitives — 10 of whom were gang members, 13 sex offenders and violent criminals — are off the streets in the metro-east. Also, 17 guns were recovered.

U.S. Marshal Donald Slaznik said the operation was “part of a United States Marshal Service national initiative, which resulted in more than 7,100 arrests.”

Leaders at the national U.S. Marshal Service came up with the idea with a focus on violent offenders. It took six months of planning.

Stacia Hylton, the director of the U.S Marshal Service said, “Operation VR 7 was not about increasing arrest numbers, but rather an effort to further protect communities by targeting the most dangerous felony fugitives.

“The approach was quality versus quantity and was strengthened by working with community leaders and local law enforcement to get the worst of the worst fugitives off the streets.” she said.

Slaznik said he was not surprised by the number of fugitives apprehended or guns recovered.

“It’s hard not to have some expectation. I’ve done so many. I am pretty pleased by the number of arrests and the guns that were taken off of the streets. The criminals do not have to get guns within the restrictions we have to. They steal and buy them illegally,” Slaznik said. “I am also very pleased about the number of sex offenders we arrested. The streets will be safer. Anytime you can take a large number of sex offenders off of the streets, the whole community is safer. No one likes a sex offender who is not registered and living in their neighborhood. Finding them is of big importance to our agency.”

Slaznik described the success of the operation as “an example of how agencies help local communities hunt down and find dangerous fugitives that they might not have time to go after because of service calls in each of the individual communities. One bad guy off the streets helps everyone,” he said.

The criteria for the cases adopted and investigated during the operation included fugitives wanted for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, robbery, aggravated assault, arson, abduction/kidnapping, sexual assault and child molestation.

Slaznik said investigators with the operation also focused on fugitives with three or more prior felony arrests for violent crimes and who were wanted for narcotics, weapons offenses, assault, battery and threats.

“Gang members and sex offenders were a high priority for us,” he said.

During the operation, Slaznik said the marshal service “strategically focused its approach by using the agency’s multi-jurisdictional investigative authority and its fugitive task force networks.”

He explained the local operation was concentrated in the metro-east and in the Southern District of Illinois using real time and ground level intelligence on criminal activity.

Between March 2 and April 10, the national operation resulted in the arrest of 7,127 people, including 750 gang members and the seizure of 383 firearms and more than 69 kilograms of illegal narcotics. There were 519 people charged with murder and 922 with weapons violations and 1,888 individuals were arrested for assault, 583 for sexual abuse, 1,093 for robbery and 2,654 for narcotics. And 10 missing children were recovered.

Slaznik said the removal of the dangerous fugitives and the seizing of illegal narcotics and money puts an immediate end to “unlawful activities. This is significant; since many of these fugitives are repeat offenders,” he said.

A man from California who was wanted for a murder there was arrested in Granite City, Slaznik said.

“This is just an example of how local, state and federal agencies work together everyday to make it hard to hide from authorities after a crime is committed,” he said.