WARREN - An anti-gun program created by members of the federal, state and local law enforcement offices in Youngstown is spreading across the state and possibly to other states.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office, FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as Warren and Youngstown police and Ohio State Highway Patrol gathered Tuesday at city council chambers here to discuss the Violence and Gun Interdiction Program (V-GRIP) efforts in 2011.
V-GRIP has seized 147 illegal guns in Youngstown and Warren in 2011, and lead to at least 250 arrests, according to officials.
U.S. Marshals give an update Nov. 29 on the successes of the V-GRIP crime-fighting program in Warren
"Every single state and federal law enforcement agency involved demonstrated over and over again they care only about getting guns and criminals off the street, not about turf," U.S. Northern District Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach said. "This has been the anti-turf effort because nobody here has been concerned about who gets the credit, just who gets arrested."
The program is run with help from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland and combines patrols in known crime trouble spots with U.S. Marshals and police to crack down on guns and the people who carry them.
The program was created in Youngstown in 2003 and was seen as a major factor in reducing the number of homicides there to 19 - the only time in more than a decade there were less than 20. The summer of 2010 was the first time the program was run in Trumbull County.
U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott is flanked by Youngstown police Chief Rod Foley, left, and Warren police Chief Tim Bowers, right, at a news conference Tuesday in Warren about V-GRIP. Tribune Chronicle / Adam Ferrise
"I'm proud to say the City of Youngstown was the genesis of V-GRIP," Youngstown police Chief Rod Foley said. "We did it to work on problems with the gun play particularly during the summer. We realized we were unable to do this with our limited resources long-term."
This year, however, the number of homicides in both Warren and Youngstown has increased.
There have been 22 homicides in Youngstown, one more than 2010. In Warren, there have been eight official homicides, not including the death of Curtis Cutlip, who died a day after police found him beaten unconscious. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office has yet to rule on his death, but police are investigating it as a homicide. Warren had four homicides in 2010.
By the numbers:
Estimated number of firearm-related arrests
Number of illegal guns seized
Federal indictments handed down
"It's impossible to say what causes that to happen, so I can't give you an honest answer as to why that happens," Dettelbach said. "I think this is only one part of a broader effort. It has to be. It has to be employers, social service providers and political leaders that recognize that there has to be a comprehensive approach. We're not going to arrest our way out of this problem alone. ..."
When V-GRIP patrols make arrests, prosecutors decide if the cases should be prosecuted in state or federal court based on potential sentencing factors. An advantage to prosecuting a gun case in federal court is that the sentencing is often stricter and criminals usually serve their full sentences.
Dettelbach said the program spread to Cleveland, Toledo and Lima. He also said law enforcement officials from other states have asked about how the program works.
Law enforcement officials said the program would continue into 2012. Statistics provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office said that 106 illegal guns were seized in Youngstown this year and 41 were seized in Warren.
Ten federal indictments also have been handed down, including one against a man accused hiding a sawed-off shotgun in a baby's stroller that was carrying a baby.
That man, Jeremy Betts, 26, of Campbell, was charged with possessing an unregistered firearm and is free on $10,000 unsecured bond, according to court records.
In 2010, 21 people were charged in federal court and 154 firearms were seized. Dettelbach said his office is working on other indictments from cases brought this year as well.
Law enforcement officials praised the recent increase in sharing resources and information between departments.
Warren police Chief Tim Bowers said all departments have worked together closely but singled out the U.S. Marshals Service for its involvement in the city.
"Without them, this wouldn't be possible in the City of Warren," Bowers said. "Anything we asked for from the other agencies, they were there. But the U.S. Marshals were side-by-side with Warren cops and Trumbull County (Sheriff's) deputies chasing bad guys, catching them and putting them in jail."