PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies are teaming up to “eject” Jackson County’s worst criminals.
Multiple agencies gathered in Pascagoula Thursday morning to announce the results of a major crime-fighting operation that has been going on for the past 13 months.
U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said there have been 17 people federally indicted since the investigation began and 97 illegal guns taken off the streets, including one that was stolen from a marked police car. Twenty of those stolen firearms were reported stolen or had obliterated serial numbers.
Of the 17 defendants charged, half have already pleaded guilty or indicated they will, said Hurst.
Those indictments are on federal charges, which means defendants could be held without bond until their court date, face maximum sentences, and not be offered any type of plea deals.
The operation is targeting career criminal offenders, armed narcotics traffickers, and documented gang members in and around Moss Point and Pascagoula.
“The arrests this week are the result of months of hard work by special agents, officers, and prosecutors to take violent criminals off our streets and put them in jail where they belong. Today’s announcement... should serve as warning to criminals on the Coast and throughout Mississippi, you will be caught, you will be prosecuted, and you will be punished for your crimes," said Hurst. "You can expect to see a lot more of us in the coming months, as we expand our crime-fighting efforts, help law-abiding citizens take back their communities and make the Coast safe again."
Hurst compared the operation to one that is currently in place in Jackson called Project Safe Neighborhood Initiatives, which is also known as Project Eject.
"Project Eject has only been operating for a short period of time but has been very successful in reducing violent crime in the capital city by 20% since this time last year," said Hurst.
"We are currently considering an expansion of that program in other areas of Mississippi, including the Gulf Coast," he continued. "What that means for citizens in the Southern District is more resources, more investigations, more prosecutions, and ultimately, safer communities for our citizens."
The program targets armed drug dealers, violent offenders, and known gang members.
"We in law enforcement have found that a small number of very violent offenders are creating most of the crime and those are the ones we're going to marshal our resources and target," said Hurst.
To criminals, Hurst had the following message: "We are ejecting you from our community. If you cannot follow our laws and be law-abiding citizens and continue to terrorize our neighborhoods and our law-abiding citizens, we will eject you."
The South Mississippi Metropolitan Enforcement Team is a partnership between the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments of the cities of Moss Point, Pascagoula, Ocean Springs, and Gautier, with the goal to eliminate illegal narcotics from Jackson County by investigating complaints of illegal narcotics activity, arresting illegal narcotics offenders and aid in the criminal prosecution of these offenders.
The FBI Safe Streets Task Force is a Gulf Coast High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area initiative and receives funding from the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington, D.C. It is made up of special agents from the FBI and law enforcement officers from the Pascagoula, Moss Point, Gautier and Ocean Springs Police Departments, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Border Patrol.