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.
‘Pothole blitz’ badly needed service coming in West Virginia
Hopefully, the heavy snow and extremely cold weather of January, February and early March are in the past.
Remnants of the harsh winter, though, remain. They’re faced each day by the state’s drivers.
Potholes have West Virginia’s roads in their worst condition in years, and the damaging freeze-thaw cycle is not over.
‘The issues are complicated’ with e-cigarettes
E-cigarettes have been around for about seven years.
But you’d be shocked at how long the idea for the the tobacco-less product has been around.
“A primitive, battery-operated ‘smokeless non-tobacco cigarette’ was patented as early as 1963 and described in Popular Mechanics in 1965,” Megan McArdle wrote for Business Week last monty.
Coal industry can’t afford to give this administration and EPA more ammunition
Coal already has a bad name in Washington, D.C.
The whole industry got another black eye this week when Alpha Natural Resources Inc., one of the country’s largest coal producers, agreed to pay a $27.5 million fine and invest $200 million to reduce illegal water pollution in five states, including West Virginia.
Being observant, reporting suspicions can make difference for hurting children
If a child is hurting, we wouldn’t hesitate to help.
Or would we?
In a five-year span, 22,830 children were victims of some type of neglect or abuse in West Virginia. That’s an overwhelming number to think about.
Gee makes major impact and earns another term as WVU president
Let’s imagine that a graduate from West Virginia University in the early 1980s, when E. Gordon Gee was president, came back to get an extra degree now and couldn’t believe that E. Gordon Gee is “still” the president of WVU.
Effort to encourage purchase of goods produced in U.S. deserves support
The concept of encouraging the purchase of American-made products is certainly not new.
On the federal level, the Buy American Act was passed in 1933 by Congress and signed by President Herbert Hoover. It required the United States government to prefer U.S.-made products in its purchases.
‘Stop Meth, Not Meds’ backed by readers
In West Virginia, there is something referred to as “stop-sale technology” that prevents a person from going to more than one pharmacy to purchase over-the-counter medication that contains the active ingredient pseudoephedrine, a nasal decongestant.
It’s not an issue of stuffy noses that lawmakers were worried about when they created the system.
Even small steps play part in critical mission to reduce childhood obesity
Just two years ago, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese, meaning they had excess body weight based on their height.
It’s a troubling statistic, and one that health officials have worked diligently to reverse.
Cutting-edge heart procedure at Mon General is saving lives
“I used to think I wouldn’t live to be 50. Well, I made it to 50 and then some,” Pearl Walls said.
Walls is likely alive today and able to tell her story to the Times West Virginian because of a cutting-edge procedure performed at Monongalia General Hospital — a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR), which was only approved for use by the FDA in 2011.
Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ many works, magic words
You know his words.
You know them well.
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