News 12 at 11, November 14, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga -- The most successful undercover operation of it's kind in state history paid off in a big way today (Wednesday) with the seizure of 400 firearms as well as a huge amount of illegal drugs.
Officials with the Sheriff's Office and ATF say the bust has now made our community a safer place to live.
"These gangs look at this city as deadlyville and think they can take over this city. We find it insulting to the good people of the city.
Today, the predators have become the prey." says Vanessa McLemore, a special agent with the ATF.
Their prey, 71 suspected gang members and counting. All rounded up starting at 4 am Wednesday morning with the help of 150 officers from across the country.
A sweep that began here at Colur Tyme Tattoo Parlor with an undercover operation 16 months in the making.
"This one was so in depth and it lasted so long that we were able to infiltrate a communtiy, a very violent community."adds McLemore.
Six violent well known Augusta gangs now finding it tough to operate behind bars, including Georgia Deadly Boys, East Boundary Boys, Circle Boys, Uptown-Fairington Gangster Thugs, O-Dubs, and the Meadowbrook Clique.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength "These were key targets and these were key gangs that are organized, that are funded, that are involved in criminal activity."
And Augusta's Suspected Gang members had no fear, unloading guns in broad daylight on a busy Tobacco Road to make a some cash.
And after 16 months of this, the operation exploded on Augusta's streets before dawn.
"I can assure you Augusta is a much safer place to live now than it was before." Says District Attorney Danny Craig.
337 guns recovered at the tattoo parlor, 63 more found during the raid.
A total of 400 firearms including rifles, assault rifles, handguns, shotguns and sawed off shot guns now off of our streets.
"Each and everyone one of these guns represent and untold number of lives saved." adds McLemore.
But it doesn't stop there. Drugs including 54 pounds of marijuana seized, 1, 196 grams of powder and crack cocaine, ecstasy and illegal pharmaceutical drugs recovered.
Now the focus is how to put even more gang members behind bars.
"I assure you that this aggressive local and federal partnership does not end here, it is now the regular course of business in Richmond County."adds Sheriff Strength.
McLemore, "Their time is limited and as we found the first 60, we will find the next 60, the next 600 and the next 6000-regardless of how many their are, it is our job to find them, and we will."
So where does it go from here? So far, 71 of the 93 suspected gang members targeted this morning were arrested. The others are being actively targeted and Operation Augusta Ink identified 50 more criminals that are all being tracked down as we speak.
As for crimes solved, preliminary estimates include numerous stolen vehicles recovered, and multiple burglaries, car jackings and armed robberies are now cleared.
And remarkably, Sheriff Strength says no one was hurt and the raid went off without a hitch.