Thanks to the efforts of a special undercover investigation, Marion County’s streets are a little safer.
The investigation, known as Operation Blue Haze, targeted drug and firearm trafficking within Marion County. It began in May when the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the Fairmont Police Department conducted sweeping arrests — warrants were filed for 53 people, and 35 individuals had been arrested as of the first afternoon.
In the five months since the start of Operation Blue Haze, each of the 53 individuals has been indicted for criminal activity. Fifty-two of them have been convicted on drug and gun charges, and 51 have pleaded guilty in federal court. One has pleaded guilty in state court. And on Oct. 12, the last federal defendant pleaded guilty in federal court in Clarksburg.
In all, more than 20 firearms and $100,000 worth of drugs have been taken into custody. The case yielded pistols, revolvers, rounds of ammunition, ballistics vests, crack cocaine, powder cocaine, marijuana and prescription pills, and the individuals convicted through the investigation had been the subjects of more than 250 prior arrests.
Three of the individuals who were convicted have already been sentenced. The remaining defendants will face sentencing between now and Jan. 13, 2013. And because many of the defendants have long criminal histories, it’s likely they will face significant prison sentences.
The ultimate result? A safer Marion County.
As U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld II explained at a press conference last week, the case will have a long-term impact on the community.
“We made the streets of Fairmont safer because of all that we took off the streets — all of the guns, all of the drugs and all of the people that were committing bad acts in this town and this county,” Ihlenfeld said, adding that he hopes the results of Operation Blue Haze will deter others from participating in criminal behavior in the area.
Resident Agent in Charge Dewayne Haddix, of the ATF, confirmed that the investigation accomplished exactly what it set out to do.
“The goal was to improve the quality of life for the fine citizens of Marion County and the surrounding communities,” Haddix said. “That goal has been achieved.”
That sentiment was echoed by Fairmont Police Chief Kelley Moran, who said Operation Blue Haze has been instrumental in setting a precedent for the future of Fairmont.
“As a result of this investigation, we not only received convictions but we also received a lower crime rate,” he said. “The number of shootings and the number of robberies in Fairmont have decreased over the past six months.
“It sends a message that the city is going to work hard to clean up the streets,” he said.
And isn’t that the ultimate goal? After all, a safer community is something that benefits each of us, both now and in the future.
United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project
The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.
COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard
I love to talk to readers.
I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.
Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial
NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.
Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives
It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.
Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely
The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.
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Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life
Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.
COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?
Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.
Relish the rich bounty of state’s diverse, unique food traditions
This week, a group of federal officials on a three-day culinary tour of the state visited the Greenbrier Valley to find out what most of us here already know — we have a rich food tradition in West Virginia.
The group was made up of officials from the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Soup Opera in need of your support again this time of year
It’s happening again.
It usually always happens about this time each year. Sometimes it’s a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
But Soup Opera executive director Shelia Tennant knows it will come — usually in July. And she’s never that surprised about it.
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