Gangs have gained a foothold in the City of Williamsport, Lycoming County District Attorney Ryan C. Gardner indicated at a press conference Thursday.
"The increase in gang activity has translated into a realized increase in the number of shootings and homicides experienced in the city and the county in the past several years," Gardner said.
According to Gardner, Williamsport is home to at least four locally operating street gangs: the 400, the 600, H Block and BG 150.
"Make no mistake, regardless of the name, the common purpose of all gangs is the distribution of illegal narcotics in Lycoming County," Gardner said.
What began as a loose-knit collection of juveniles peddling drugs on the streets of Williamsport has grown into a lucrative criminal hierarchy, according to the district attorney.
Williamsport's oldest gang, the 400, reportedly refers to the 400 block of Louisa Street - where several of the founding members resided at the time it was formed.
"Despite the best efforts of this county's law enforcement to disrupt this illegal enterprise, the 400 gang has continuously maintained a presence in this county's backyard for years," Gardner said.
Gangs use a basic but profitable business model: buy and sell illegal narcotics.
"Due to the lucrative nature of the 400 gang enterprise, the gang's membership continued to increase," Gardner said. "Whether it was the result of infighting, greed or to keep pace with demand, various younger members of the 400 gang formed another gang, referred to as the 600 gang."
The 600 gang originally consisted of members residing largely in the area of the 600 block of Locust Street, according to Gardner.
"Sadly, other spin-off gangs have recently emerged in the city known as the H Block gang and the BG150 gang," Gardner said.
"Prolific gang-involved drug dealers" - and other individuals allegedly involved in the distribution of narcotics - were the target of yesterday's raids, according to the district attorney.
The Lycoming County Narcotics Unit, which includes two members each of the city and state police, filed 61 criminal complaints and arrests this week.
"The majority of the NEU warrants involve non-gang related individuals who delivered a variety of illegal narcotics over the course of approximately six months," Gardner said.
On Sunday, an NEU search warrant related to an ongoing investigation recovered a handgun suspected to be involved in a recent shooting, according to Gardner.
The district attorney said that 12 search warrants were executed yesterday alone, yielding $21,000 in cash and the following guns and drugs:
- 3 semiautomatic rifles
- 1 long rifle
- 3 semiautomatic pistols
- 2 revolvers
- Varying amounts of heroin, fentanyl, crack, cocaine, marijuana, and assorted pills.
Thirty people were arrested as a result of the NEU warrants, and three out of six federal warrants successfully were served, Gardner said.
The following agencies participated in yesterday's round-up:
- 45 state troopers, including drug and bomb detection canines
- The PSP East and West SERT teams
- 15 officers of the Williamsport Bureau of Police
- the Williamsport SERT team, coordinated by Agents Jeremy Brown and Justin Snyder
- Two teams from the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force, coordinated by US Deputy Marshal Matt Persun and PSP Trooper Daniel Dennucci
- 15 sheriff's deputies and sheriff's vehicles to transport those apprehended
- 20 adult probation officers
- 7 juvenile probation officers
- 15-20 FBI personnel
- All county detectives
- the Drug Enforcement Agency
- Old Lycoming Township Police and Fire Departments
- The Central Processing Unit
- The Lycoming County Communication Center
"In short, the combination of guns, drugs and gangs is a recipe for violence that has no place in Williamsport or Lycoming County," Gardner said.