News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington

Fifty Arrested, 68 Guns, Meth And Heroin Seized In Three Month White Center Initiative

“Hotspot” Initiative Focused on Violent Crime in White Center Neighborhood

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 21, 2011

A three month operation targeting violent repeat offenders in the White Center area of King County wrapped up this week with dozens of arrests and seizures of 68 guns, 51 lbs of methamphetamine, 2 lbs of crack cocaine and more than 10 lbs of powder cocaine.  Two businesses that have been hubs for criminal activity were searched yesterday following extensive undercover investigations.  Twenty-six defendants have been charged federally and another 27 face charges in King County Superior Court.  Three federal defendants are still being sought.

U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan joined with King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg and leaders of federal and local law enforcement to discuss operation “Center of Attention.”  Led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) Violent Crime Task Force, the operation used undercover agents and cooperating individuals to purchase guns and drugs from a variety of targets.  Some of the individuals identified for prosecution were well known to the community as repeat offenders.

“This neighborhood will not be a safe haven for criminals.  It belongs to the families and people who live in White Center,” said U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan. “This operation reflects a joint commitment by federal and local law enforcement to identify the persistent crime problems in White Center and address them head on.  The long term solutions lie in the community, but we will continue to work with them.”

“This has been an extraordinary effort by federal and local law enforcement to root out some of the major sources of crime and violence in the White Center community,” said Dan Satterberg, King County Prosecuting Attorney.  “For a single operation to uncover this many offenders involved in the illegal sale of guns and drugs is truly remarkable.  My office is delighted to partner with the U.S. Attorney's Office to prosecute some of the people who have had such a negative impact on this neighborhood.”

“When U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan came to me with this idea, I knew the multi-agency ATF Violent Crime Task Force would be the perfect investigative arm for this initiative,” said Kelvin N. Crenshaw, ATF Special Agent in Charge. “It’s also a huge commitment from both the federal and state prosecutors.  Together, we have made an extraordinary difference for the citizens of White Center.”

The operation focused on illegal gun sales and drug dealing both on the street and in area businesses.  Undercover agents purchased numerous firearms from felons who were prohibited from possessing guns.  In other instances they purchased guns from defendants who were also dealing drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamine.  Four businesses were targeted by law enforcement after evidence was uncovered concerning drug dealing and promoting prostitution on the premises.  Property owners will be notified about the suspected criminal activity and warned about the possibility the property could be forfeited should the criminal activity continue.

The investigation was a coordinated joint effort by ATF, the King County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the Seattle Police Department, the King County Metro Transit Police, Washington State Department of Corrections, Washington State Liquor Control Board and the Eastside Narcotics Task Force.

The cases are being prosecuted federally by Assistant United States Attorneys Jill Otake, Justin Arnold and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs.  Mr. Hobbs is a Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor, specially designated to prosecute gun and drug cases in federal court.  Senior Deputy Prosecutor Mary Barbosa and Senior Deputy Prosecutor Gary Ernsdorff are the lead prosecutors on the cases being prosecuted in King County Superior Court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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