(CN) – A two year investigation involving local, state and federal law enforcement yielded the arrest of 21 gang members and its associates on charges range from firearms and drug trafficking to other violent crimes in North Charleston on Wednesday morning.
Officials said the effort, formally known as the North Charleston Violent Crime Community Impact Investigation, involved more than 200 undercover operations resulting in the purchase of 58 firearms, more than three and a half pounds of cocaine and crack cocaine, 80 grams of methamphetamine and 41 grams of heroin. Law enforcement served 42 warrants on Wednesday and they continue to search for the 21 suspects that remain at large.
The operation began in October 2014. Early on the Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Charlotte field office and the Office of Homeland Security targeted gang members and associates of the O Block Money Gang or “OBMG,” and others involved in arms trafficking, criminal firearms possessions, robberies, burglaries, home invasions, shootings and other violent crimes.
Beth Drake, assistant U.S. Attorney for South Carolina, said violent crime has increased in the state’s Lowcountry in recent years, and that in order to stem it, 10 agencies agreed to focus on a crime corridor extending from Charleston County and into Dorchester County.
“Violent crime collides with the American way of life here in North Charleston. The U.S. Attorney’s Office is proud to support this initiative. A lot of time and effort has been put in to make cases against these individuals who plague the community,” she said.
Mayor Keith Summey said there is a reason residents have not necessarily seen the work that law enforcement has been doing to address the violent crime and gang problem in the city.
“This has been very quiet. We respond to the calls and complaints of criminal activity, but if we arrest one on a minor charge, it’s just a slap on the wrist and they are out the next day. These suspects will be serving time,” Summey said.
In 2016 there were 32 homicides in North Charleston, most of which were drug related, the mayor said. He went on to assure the public that law enforcement is continuing its effort to make the community safer and improving the quality of life.
“These individuals have ruined their neighborhood and we are putting a stop to it,” he said. “You see a lot these suspects are young men. These young men have destroyed their lives with greed, by having no respect for the law, their families or the community.”
Summey thanked the efforts of all involved saying the undercover officers take a huge risk while conducting this type of large scale investigation.
North Charleston City Council member Dorothy Williams praised the efforts of all involved in reducing crime, particularly in her district where the lion share of arrests were made.
“The Waylan sub division in my district is where this happened. We will continue to work with law enforcement and we will have a beautiful city,” Williams said.