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.
Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives
A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.
State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary
Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.
Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better
When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.
COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable
That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!
Decision to be an organ donor can save lives
Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.
Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community
Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
Marion County is full of volunteers.
They read to our youth.
They assist nonprofit agencies.
They serve on boards and committees.
And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.
Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law
West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.
Strong Fairmont General Hospital badly needed to serve our region
Mere minutes often matter when it comes to emergency health care.
That’s why we need a strong Fairmont General Hospital.
When patients need the services of health-care professionals, having family and friends close at hand is often essential, and their presence may even lead to a better outcome.
COLUMN: Fairmont General Hospital vital part of community
There’s nothing better than holding a newborn baby. It gives you a little feeling that not only is everything right in the world, but this perfect little human represents hope of a future where things will be better than they are today.
I had that blessed opportunity to hold that hopeful future in my arms last week when I visited my dear friend Jen and her newborn son Tristan at Fairmont General Hospital.
Putting a cost on safety issue has been culprit in 13 traffic deaths
Would you believe that an item costing just 57 cents — less than the price of a can of pop — is being cited as the culprit in 13 traffic deaths?
A simple 57-cent item.
That’s how much fixing the fatal ignition switches that General Motors installed in new automobiles would have cost, and 13 lives would probably have been saved.
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