Sweep step toward a new Warren

They called it ”Operation: Little D-Town.” Little D-Town is Warren. The ”D” stands for Detroit, a city marred by economic devastation, high poverty, rampant crime and potential municipal bankruptcy.

On Wednesday, hundreds of law enforcement agents and Warren’s government leaders began to wash the ”D” out of that dubious title. It was a powerful show of force that, if followed up with consistent vigilance, will play a critical part in reviving Trumbull County’s seat.

Nineteen federal indictments were unsealed Wednesday charging 55 people with federal narcotics and weapons crimes in Warren and the surrounding area. At the same time, 42 people were charged in state indictments.

The indictments came after a yearlong undercover investigation that officials said targeted numerous drug-trafficking organizations in Warren, Youngstown and surrounding areas. Warren police, ATF agents, U.S. marshals, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Task Force, Ohio BCI and Youngstown police were among the agencies that fanned out to find 97 suspects, mostly here but also in Detroit, Dayton, Pittsburgh and Columbus.

The seriousness of violent crime in Warren came to the forefront in November when Marco Dukes was gunned down on a Sunday morning near downtown in a spectacular scene that included more the 50 shots fired next to a day care, near a church and along a busy street downtown. Then on New Year’s Day, another murder, this time at Sunset Lounge near downtown, resulted in gunfire again spilling onto busy streets.

But this massive sweep, as police Chief Tim Bowers said, will restore some peace and order.

”It’s our hope that the work we saw today is a major step in fighting the types of crimes you saw in those cases,” Bowers said on Wednesday.

Events like the Dukes and Sunset murders, plus many other shootings recently, are crippling for a town. But Mayor Doug Franklin, Safety/Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa and Bowers had already brought in federal authorities a year ago. How frustrating it must have been for them to receive criticism about crime without being able to explain that a massive undercover operation was under way.

”We are reinforcing our commitment to their safety and removing violence from our streets,” the mayor said.

That’s probably an understatement considering the cadre of assault weapons confiscated Wednesday.

Now let’s keep in mind something that Warren resident Bertha McDougal said. ”They are going to take these people away, but there will be others who will take their place.”

No doubt. So Warren’s leaders must never let down in their quest for safety.

They advanced pretty darn far on that quest this week. Never before have so many thugs, weapons and drugs been taken off the streets at one time anywhere in the Mahoning Valley, quite possibly anywhere in the U.S. for a town this size. It was gratifying to see the tribtoday.com message boards light up with rave comments about the successful sweep. People are feeling pretty good about the punishing effort so many in authority in Warren made and the overwhelming support the city received from others.

We look forward to enjoying the rest of 2013 with less blood, less gunfire, fewer drugs and reduced fear. Warren has a lot of offer. Getting tough on crime is the first step toward revival.