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Oakland police, ATF charge 60 after four-month undercover operation

The San Francisco Bay Area’s top federal prosecutor Tuesday announced the results of a four-month undercover effort targeting violent offenders, robbery crews and criminal organizations working the streets of Oakland, saying 60 suspects were charged with federal offenses and 92 guns seized.

Melinda Haag, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, said "Operation Gideon III" had also resulted in the seizure of three kilograms of methamphetamine, two kilograms of marijuana, one kilogram of heroin and a half-kilogram of crack cocaine.

Haag called the effort “a model of collaboration and the targeted use of federal law enforcement resources to help a community badly in need. ... Our work continues, but we hope what has been accomplished so far has put a dent in the scourge of violence affecting parts of Oakland.

She was flanked at Oakland’s federal building Tuesday morning by Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) and Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley, whose office is charging additional suspects in state court.

The effort comes as the understaffed Oakland Police Department has struggled to combat a rising violent-crime rate while dedicating resources to recurring street protests related to the Occupy movement.

Jordan told local media that he sought the federal help after three toddlers were slain in the city last year. Violent crime has risen in Oakland this year by about 20%. But Jordan said April’s 91 shootings had been halved in May -– a reduction he attributed to the multi-agency effort. Homicides also dropped –- from 14 in April to five so far in May, he said.

Participating in the operation were “some of the most experienced undercover special agents” from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who teamed up with local ATF agents and Oakland police officers, Haag said.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Scot L. Thomasson said 44  agents had come from out of state to take part, aiming to "ferret out the worst-of-the-worst violent offenders in Oakland."

Eleven assistant U.S. attorneys have been assigned to the cases, which include charges of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute narcotics, conspiracy and attempt to interfere with interstate commerce through robbery, assaulting federal agents, and numerous firearms charges.

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-- Lee Romney in San Francisco

 
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