Last year, state, federal and local law enforcement agencies banded together in Rock County for a purpose, to reduce gang activity and take drug dealers off the street.
For months, Beloit police, the FBI, and slant, among others, investigated a group of drug dealers. A grand jury returned 11 indictments Wednesday, and Thursday, 350 law officers completed a sting.
During Thursday's news conference, an FBI special agent said drug traffickers who weren't arrested Thursday shouldn't consider themselves lucky. All they got was a postponement; 15 men were arrested just after 6 a.m. during a highly coordinated operation. Two of the defendants were already in custody on unrelated charges.
Officers hit 22 locations around the city of Beloit, arresting the men, and executing search warrants. Sox vehicles were also seized during the sting. The indictments charge the men on multiple counts of drug distribution of crack cocaine, powder cocaine and heroin. Law enforcement spent 2,300 hours working this case and all say these arrests are just the first fruits of their efforts.
"These are well known, very active. These are not your street corner drug dealers. These are people that carry significant influence on the drug market on our community and I sincerely believe today's activities will put a significant dent in drug sales in our community," says Beloit Police Chief Sam Lathrop.
350 officers were involved in Thursday's sting including 8 SWAT teams. United States attorney Stephen Sinnott won't say if the defendants are gang members. He says more information will be released as the cases' progress through the system.
Sixteen of the men are residents of Beloit, except for Kenneth Spence, who lives in Rockford. The defendants range in age from 18 to 42. All of them have been transferred to Madison where they'll remain in custody.