Reporting Andrea Menniti
STOCKTON (CBS13) – Stockton set a new record for homicide in a single year in 2012. This year, however, is a different story and police think they know exactly why.
Officials say a major crackdown has had a direct impact on the city’s crime rate. Agents from all over the country spent four months in Stockton and went undercover to catch those accused of committing federal crimes in a mission dubbed “Gideon IV.”
“We did this through our targeting package to make sure we are going after the worst of the worst,” said Joseph Riehl, an ATF spokesperson.
In the top-secret mission, 20 federal agents converged on Stockton where they served more than 200 search and arrest warrants and cuffed 44 career criminals.
Agents from out of the area went undercover, targeting those accused of gun and drug trafficking, and robbery.
“They did interact quite often with the criminal elements in an effort to engage them to see if they were in fact committing crime,” said Riehl.
Criminals arrested during this mission face time in federal prison.
“These defendants are going to dispersed and sent to prisons all over the country. They aren’t going be to here where they will be communicating or calling shots from the inside or talking with their fellow gang members who are just outside the wall,” said US Attorney Ben Wagner.
They also won’t be released because of overcrowding.
“There’s no early release in the federal system. If you are convicted in the federal system you are going to serve at least 85 percent of the time,” said Wagner.
Stockton Police Department Chief Eric Jones says the tipping point to pursue federal help was when the city shattered its homicide rate last year.
“We believe this mission was an absolute success,” said Jones.
It’s a success because the police department says murders are down 50 percent from this time last year. Crime is down 15 percent overall.
“There’s no doubt some violent acts were thwarted,” said Jones.
Some of the cases are already working through the federal court system, while some fugitives remain on the loose. ATF will continue to help catch suspects in Stockton.