Apr. 27—OXFORD — During the month of March, federal law enforcement teamed with local agencies to target known offenders, deter crime and improve community and safety relations.
The joint operation made more than 700 arrests across north Mississippi. That included more than a few arrests in Tupelo and Lee County. The 350 felony arrests over four counties included drug possession, weapons, aggravated assault, sexual assault, robbery, arson and even homicide. The operation also seized 38 guns, $50,720 in cash and drugs with a street value of nearly $135,000.
“We didn’t help with traffic citations. We were there to help with serious crimes,” said Danny McKittrick, US Marshal for the Northern District of Mississippi. “These were extremely high risk individuals.”
And the local officials were glad to get the help.
“They have resources we don’t. On the flip side, the local people know where the trouble spots are and where the criminals hang out,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson. “When you can pool resources together for one common goal, it is a good thing.”
United States Attorney Clay Joyner said Operation MPACT (Mississippi Partnering Agencies Coming Together) involved the sheriff’s offices in Grenada, Lee, Lowndes and Panola counties, plus the Tupelo Police Department. They were partnered with the US Marshals Service as well as the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
“Whatever cases can be processed in federal court will be,” Joyner said. “Several of the arrests involved a convicted felon in possession of a weapon. That is a federal crime and the ATF will handle those cases.”
During the coronavirus pandemic, law enforcement noticed crime increase, especially violent crime. Joyner said discussions on the federal level led to them reaching out to a handful of counties. And local authorizes were thrilled to get the help.
“We participated in one of these pre-COVID and it was successful,” Johnson said. “This one was in the works for several months and it turned out to be one of the most successful operations they have had. We got some dangerous people off the street.”
Officials said large quantities of methamphetamine, cocaine, crack cocaine, fentanyl and even heroine were seized.
“In the last couple of weeks, we had a fatal overdose from fentanyl at Ole Miss,” Joyner said. “A lot of folks are buying pills that are not made by a pharmaceutical company. They are made with pill presses in Mexico and here and many are cut with fentanyl.
“Getting that off the streets means the most to me. It is such a dangerous drug.”
With the overall rise in crime across the region, authorities noticed several organized criminal groups operating out of Memphis and Chicago headed south to Mississippi along Interstate 55.
McKittrick said that the arrests include 56 who are documented members of gangs with national ties.