CANTON — As federal agents ask the public for help locating two dozen guns reportedly stolen from two businesses, local police are increasing crime-fighting efforts by taking aim at street gangs and illegal drug trafficking.

“These operations will be proactive and focus on gang-affiliated individuals as well as drug and firearms enforcement,” city police Capt. Dave Davis said. “It’s going to be proactive, it’s going to be lengthy and it’s going to last throughout the summer.”

The operations will begin “in the near future” and continue with increased fervor with particular attention given to places where the city’s ShotSpotter alert system detects gunshots and where other reported violent crimes occur, he said.

Gunshots already are rising with the temperature, as crime typically goes up during the summer months, Davis pointed out.

“We have seen a slight increase in ShotSpotter activity since the weather’s turned (warmer) here in the last couple weeks,” he said.

Davis said the current two-man gang enforcement team in the Detective Bureau is expected to expand as other divisions of the department and law enforcement agencies step in to add expertise.

Those include the department’s Special Investigations Unit, the regional SWAT unit and other local and federal law enforcement agencies — the Stark Metro Narcotics Unit, U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Crimes Task Force, FBI Safe Streets Task Force and U.S. Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Guns on the street

Suzanne Dabkowski, spokesperson for ATF’s Columbus field division, confirmed Thursday that ATF agents are continuing their investigation into the two break-ins and the attempted break-in of firearms dealers in Stark County, incidents that have resulted in five arrests and left stolen guns on the street.

While other teenagers have been arrested in recent months when a few of the stolen guns have surfaced during other crimes, five Canton men have so far been charged with stealing the guns initially and they await federal court hearings that have not been scheduled.

Marquelis O. Thomas, 19, of the 2700 block of Ninth Street NW, was arrested Feb. 2 — hours after employees at Elite Security Consultants, 1340 Market Ave. N, discovered the business had been burglarized and 22 guns were stolen.

The same day, Stark County sheriff’s deputies were called to Stark Arms, a Canton Township gun store where someone had unsuccessfully tried to break in.

Seven guns were stolen when that same business was broken into on Aug. 28, Stark County Sheriff’s Department reports show.

Since then, a few of the guns have been recovered and several juveniles have been arrested in what authorities believe could be related crimes.

Deputies’ reports dated Sept. 13 also show Canton police already had recovered a rifle stolen from Stark Arms in August, and had arrested two juveniles and one adult. Arrest details were not listed in the deputies’ reports released Friday to The Canton Repository. But the Canton police report on the related incident shows police arrested two 17-year-old boys and Jamaryon Frazier, 18, who also was later arrested on new charges stemming from the break-in at Elite. The teens and Frazier were listed as being arrested on charges of carrying a concealed weapon and aggravated menacing after reportedly pointing a gun at several people in the 900 block of Greenfield Avenue SW.

Deputies on the Stark Arms investigation indicated that Canton police recovered a gun during the boys’ arrest — one of the guns that had been stolen from Stark Arms in August.

In November, three more teens were arrested after a theft that involved six people at a dollar store in Canton Township. Records show two of the three arrested teens admitted they had been at Stark Arms. One of the three was charged with grand theft, breaking and entering, criminal damaging and criminal trespass, but his name was only listed in the report as suspect No. 3.

Dabkowski said Friday all of the stolen weapons were semi-automatic guns and of the 29 guns stolen, five have since been recovered.

She would not divulge where, when or how.

“This is still very much an ongoing investigation,” she said.

Still, two dozen stolen guns are unaccounted for and court hearings have yet to take place for those already in custody.

Thomas has been charged with breaking and entering and 22 counts of grand theft, charges that stem from the Elite break-in, Stark County court records show. Four more Canton men were charged in connection with that crime as well:

• Jamaryon X. Frazier of the 200 block of Maryland Avenue SW was arrested Feb. 5. He also faces 22 counts of grand theft and a single breaking and entering charge.

• God Gibson, 18, of the 900 block of Sixth Street NW was arrested the next day, and charged with attempted breaking and entering and two counts of grand theft, court records show.

• Shymeik Barkley on Feb. 11 and;

• Robert Julius Clark, 18, on Feb. 22. Barkley and Clark were each charged with breaking and entering and 22 counts of grand theft.

She also declined to say if more arrests are pending.

“We need to figure out where the (remaining) guns are,” she said. “We need to find out who has them and we’re figuring out where to go from there. We’re going to follow all of our leads.”

Dabkowski said her agency, however, is “grateful for the Stark County Sheriff’s Office and the Canton Police Department. This is a huge cooperative effort. Our three agencies have been working closely in this investigation.”

Helping law enforcement

The combined efforts will continue this summer with the police department’s planned operations.

While Davis declined to provide details, he said the two-man gang unit will be augmented as the summer progresses.

“We’re going to increase that number with the Special Investigations Unit throughout the summer and we’ll be using some overtime to supplement those units with extra people,” he said. “We have ongoing intelligence and we have confidential informants that give us good intel on these people and these operations.”

The plan is different than the former method used by the Gang Task Force, which ended around 2009. It was criticized by local pastors who contend it violated civil rights and unfairly targeted blacks in high-crime neighborhoods.

Davis said the former gang unit “worked cases from the complaint all the way through the investigation and then made the arrests. They focused more on long-term investigations. The gang officers that we have now conduct surveillance and intelligence on more short-term investigations. They basically do street enforcement and outstanding warrant services. If they know a gang member has a warrant, instead of trying to investigate him, they’ll go out and arrest him immediately. This is a more proactive approach.”

 

Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or lori.steineck@cantonrep.com.

On Twitter: @lsteineckREP