Federal, county and local law enforcement agencies around Cleveland, Ohio, have joined forces in recent months as part of a “summer violent crime reduction initiative,” arresting a total of 59 individuals and disrupting criminal networks.
The operation, which spanned three months, led to the seizure of more than 240 firearms, including 17 unserialized “ghost guns” and a substantial quantity of illegal drugs.
U.S. Attorney Rebecca C. Lutzko announced the arrests in a DOJ report, stating that the suspects faced charges related to illegally trafficking firearms, selling drugs, using firearms in drug-related crimes and illegally possessing firearms.
Of the seized firearms, a staggering 203 were obtained through law enforcement purchases from illegal sellers.
Many of these weapons have been linked to violent criminal activities, including homicides and felonious assaults that occurred in Cleveland and its suburbs in 2022 and 2023.
ATF Director Steven M. Dettelbach revealed the alarming connection between the seized guns and violent incidents.
“Fourty-six of the guns were linked to 102 shooting incidents, including 11 homicides. Just one of these crime guns was tied to 14 different shootings,” Dettelbach stated.
Dettelbach added that the ATF’s efforts to get illegal firearms off the streets is still underway.
“We’re not done. Not by a long shot. The ATF and everybody here is going to continue to stand with you to make sure we protect and respect the rights of peaceful law abiding Clevelanders — their rights to live in peace and free of harm without having to worry about a hail of gunfire,” he said.
One particularly noteworthy case in the crackdown involved law enforcement purchasing more than 50 firearms from a group of seven individuals working together to sell the weapons on Cleveland streets.
Police said such transactions often occurred in public places during business hours or recreational areas.
Dettelbach explained that the guns were sent to forensic labs to extract any potential evidence that could be used to solve past shootings and homicides, as well as prevent future crimes.
“There’s something called a shooting cycle, and when you can identify the shooting cycle and interrupt the shooting cycle, as all of these men and women in Cleveland have done, you not only catch them for what they’ve done, you prevent them from shooting again,” the ATF official said.
The crime reduction initiative also uncovered a conspiracy to conduct a home invasion and robbery at a presumed “stash house” containing substantial quantities of cocaine.
According to a DOJ press release, law enforcement partners intervened and prevented the criminals from carrying out their plan.
In total, the operation resulted in the seizure of approximately 1.5 kilograms of cocaine, 215 grams of cocaine base, almost three kilograms of methamphetamine, 686 fentanyl pills, nearly 1.5 kilograms of heroin/fentanyl mix and 1,144 MDMA pills.
Attorney General Merrick B. Garland stated that the purpose of the crackdown was to disrupt and dismantle criminal gun trafficking pipelines.
“Our prosecutors and agents are working more closely than ever before with our local law enforcement partners to get illegal guns off our streets and hold accountable those who put illegal guns in the hands of violent criminals,” Garland said.
Following news of the seizures, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said his administration was committed to supporting Cleveland police in their efforts to combat crime through a “surge initiative” that combines resources from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to target known criminal hotspots.
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb also stressed the city’s determination to tackle rising crime rates and improve public safety, citing the Raising Investment in Safety for Everyone Initiative, which involves collaboration with outside agencies to reduce violence in the city.
According to Dettelbach, a new Crime Intelligence Center, with its own dedicated staff and resources, is expected to open soon, and will have a key role in ongoing efforts to crack down and investigate gun and drug trafficking crimes in the city.