No. 3: Probe cracks down on local gang activity

12/30/2013

No. 3: Probe cracks down on local gang activity

No. 3: Probe cracks down on local gang activity

Editor's Note:This is the eighth in a series of stories featuring The Telegram's top 10 news stories for 2013.

By KELTON BROOKS

kbrooks@gctelegram.com

The investigation into widespread criminal gang activity in Garden City and Finney County that resulted in numerous charges and arrests over a two-year span will officially come to an end Jan. 6, 2014.

The investigation began in October 2011, when the Garden City Police Department investigated a report of a home invasion, which resulted in an aggravated robbery and aggravated battery. Several individuals involved were identified as members of a local, criminal street gang.

After a review of other cases involving members of the same criminal street gang, an investigation called "Operation Frontline" was initiated to resolve older cases and suppress future gang crimes.

Operation Frontline and the subsequent arrests that resulted come in at No. 3 on The Telegram's list of top stories of 2013, as voted on by The Telegram staff.

The investigation included undercover operations, surveillance and gathering evidence of crimes involving suspected gang activity in Garden City. These crimes included home invasions, gang initiations, aggravated batteries, an aggravated arson and attempted murder, gun sales, drug sales, burglaries, and possession of stolen property.

More than 30 arrests were made with the help of 60 local, state and federal law enforcement officers.

Agencies that assisted Garden City police with the investigation were the Finney County Sheriff's Office; the Drug Enforcement Administration; Garden City Resident Office; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Wichita; the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; the Dodge City Police Department; the Ford County Sheriff's Office; the Kearny County Sheriff's Office; the Ulysses Police Department; the Wichita Police Department; the Kansas Department of Corrections; the Kansas Highway Patrol; the Amarillo Police Department; and Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center.

The criminal cases were prosecuted by the Finney County Attorney's Office, the Kansas Attorney General's Office, the Ford County Attorney's Office, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wichita.

The gangs under investigation were the Nortenos, the Diablos Viejos, who was affiliated with the Nortenos, and a rival gang, the Surenos.

"The investigation as a whole had a major impact on the Norteno gang in Dodge City," Dodge City Police Chief Craig Mellecker said.

During a press conference in early June, Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue said, "I think this is going to have a great impact on this particular gang and their activities, and hopefully curtail their activities tremendously, but we're hopeful that this sends a message to any other gangs that are operating in our community that law enforcement here is not going to sit by and allow them to do what they please."

Mellecker said the gang activity has dwindled down from "little to none" in surrounding areas, and the last defendant in the case is expected to enter a plea on Jan. 6.

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