LITTLE ROCK – On a rainy Thursday morning, some 250 law enforcement officers from more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies fanned out across Little Rock.
Their goal was to arrest as many alleged gang members as they could and their efforts were largely successful with 21 taken into custody for a litany list of criminal charges ranging from drugs to gun possession to violent crime in the capitol city.
“I want to make it clear,” said Cody Hiland, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District. “This is a just a start.”
The 21 join another 19 who were either arrested in raids last week, or were already in custody on other charges, said Chris Givens at a Thursday afternoon press conference announcing the arrests. Givens serves as Hiland’s spokesman and is also an assistant U.S. Attorney. A total of 49 people were charged in the indictments that were unsealed on Thursday but nine remain at large, Givens added. All of those arrested are with either the Wolfe Street Crips or Monroe Street Hustlers. That last gang is also known as the Real Hustlers Incorporated and are affiliated with the Bloods.
Also seized on Thursday were 21 guns, body armor, nearly 10 pounds of cocaine along with a pharmacy list of other drugs, $50,000, a motorcycle and four cars.
Joining Hiland at the press conference were Chiefs Mike Davis and Kenton Buckner with, respectively, the North Little Rock and Little Rock police departments. Pulaski County Sheriff Doc Holladay, Col. Bill Bryant, head of the Arkansas State Police and numerous federal law enforcement agencies.
The group of agencies has been designated as GET Rock or Gang Enforcement Team Rock.
The efforts began in earnest last summer after a night club shooting in downtown Little Rock and Buckner called the day’s efforts, “a touchdown for us.” The shooting there was a result of the rivalry between the Wolfe Street Crips and Real Hustlers Inc.
At the press conference it was noted U.S. Attorney Jeff Session has said reducing violent crime across the country as a top priority for the Department of Justice and, “we are committed to that priority,” Hiland said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, was not in attendance at the press conference, but it an e-mailed statement, he said, “The success of this operation demonstrates what cooperation, intelligence information and courageous law enforcement work can do to make our streets safer. I commend the stellar work of all of those involved in this morning’s efforts, and I know this is just the beginning — there’s plenty of work left to do.”
Hiland also announced that the Prosecuting Attorneys from Pulaski, Lonoke, Faulkner, Saline, Jefferson and White counties along with state Attorney General Leslie Rutledge were loaning a total of 13 prosecutors from their offices will be sworn in as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys and will help with the federal prosecutions of violent criminals, while continuing their work at each’s respective office.
Adding local prosecutors to his federal team, Hiland added, was unprecedented for Arkansas.