Federal agencies reach out to MS sheriffs - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Federal agencies reach out to MS sheriffs

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Local, state, and federal law enforcement officers say by developing stronger relationships and working together, they hope to get more criminals off the streets. This week the Mississippi Sheriff's Association is holding its summer conference in Gulfport. Agencies want to open the lines of communication.

Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Lisa Green said her agency is ready to help Mississippi sheriffs solve their gun crimes.

"One example would be if they obtain a firearm with an obliterated serial number, we have a lab that has very distinct and specific capabilities to be able to raise serial numbers to be able to identify the firearms," Green said. "After that is done, we can use the serial number to do a trace on the firearm to help them determine where this firearm came from and how this firearm got on the street into the hands of a criminal."

Immigration and Customs Enforcement wants to make it easier for local law enforcement departments to find out the true identities of immigrants in their jails.

"When they move from one community to the next all they have to do is come up with a new name and date of birth," ICE agent Ron Johnson said. "There's nothing to bounce that off of for your deputies to try to verify who they are."

ICE have launched Operation Secure Communities, which is a database now available in 21 states is on its way to Mississippi.

"So it's very likely once this system comes online in your community, someone that you may have picked up four or five times for DUI, for driving without a license, for something pretty minor, you run his fingerprints," said Johnson. "It bounces off immigration, you're going to come back with this guy has been deported five or six times. It may lead you to other identities."

The database uses records from arrests, deportations, denied VISA applications, and INTERPOL.  Johnson said his division's major focus is removing the criminal element of foreign born individuals from the jail populations.

"We want to concentrate on is the criminal element," Johnson said. "That's not to say if you have someone in jail that you've picked up four or five times for traffic violations and while we're there looking for a criminal element, we determine that they're there illegally. We can also take them into custody and put them in deportation proceedings."

The sheriffs say most of building better relationships with the feds is getting to know one another.

"After 9/11, the federal agencies restructured. They combined some of the agencies. Some of the other ones went out on their own in different areas and so forth," Sheriff Melvin Brisolara of Harrison County said. "Basically what we're doing is we're trying to find out today exactly what each federal agency is responsible for so we know who we can contact in the future when we need their assistance."

"I think it's very important that we have a relationship with the federal agencies and that seems to be getting stronger and stronger every day," said Pearl River County Sheriff David Allison. "I know in the past the relationship wasn't that good, but the federal agents come around more and make themselves more available."

The Sheriff's Association also heard from representatives from the Department of Mental Health and Homeland Security, among others.

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