Operation H.I.T.S. results in more than 100 arrests, guns and drugs

SOUTHEAST MO/MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – More than 100 people in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri are facing federal and state charges for violations that include firearms and narcotics trafficking and violent crimes.


The most recent arrests of more than 80 people occurred Wednesday morning, and a total of 125 people are facing charges as a result of a two year investigation known as Operation H.I.T.S. (High Intensity Trafficking Suppression).


"Law enforcement over the last two years has conducted over 240 operations to perfect the criminal charges against these individuals. As a result 125 individuals have been indicted on both state and federal charges, firearms and narcotics charges," said Arkansas and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Special Agent in Charge Marino Vidoli.


Operation H.I.T.S. was a collaborative effort between several law enforcement agencies in Northeast Arkansas and Southeast Missouri.


Of the 125 people facing charges, Vidoli and Christopher Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced seven indictments charging 19 people in Blytheville with 91 counts of drug and gun charges.


"After this morning's operation, 14 of those 19 are now in custody," said Thyer. "That case involved confidential informants, multiple investigatory techniques, controlled purchases of both narcotics and firearms. There were numerous sources information that identified Kenneth Brown, Jr., alias "Ice Man", as supplying large amounts of methamphetamine in the Blytheville Arkansas area. Brown's father, and at least two cousins were also involved, truly making this a family business here in Blytheville."


"This is a monumental operation. It's taken quite a few man-hours and quite a bit of time to put together," said Blytheville Chief of Police Ross Thompson. "It just wasn't about the drugs you see or about the money. It was about getting those guns off the street and getting the people off the streets that are using those guns against our citizens."


Thyer said violent crimes in the state of Arkansas have decreased, but the crimes are not decreasing at the same pace as violent crimes nationally.


"In Mississippi County, the violent crime rate last year was 81.5 violent per 10,000 people. That's compared to a national average of 18.4 per 10,000. Why have those crime rates not kept pace with the national average? Specifically, part of the reason for that is right here in Mississippi County." 

Thyer added that Mississippi County is only part of the problem, saying, "Across the state of Arkansas, 53 of 75 counties are above the national average in violent crime rate."


According to the Department of Justice, a total of 108 firearms, more than three pounds of meth and cocaine, more than 26 pounds of marijuana and numerous ecstasy and other narcotic pills were purchased or seized during the operation.

"There are no boundaries for criminals and there can't be boundaries for us," said Vidoli. "It's our intent is to send a very strong message today and to put them on notice that our efforts, law enforcement efforts, prosecutorial efforts just got started."


The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Caruthersville Police Department, the Steele Police Department, the Bootheel Drug Task Force, the Arkansas Second Judicial Drug Task Force, the Kennett Police Department, the Hayti Police Department, the Pemiscot County Sheriff's Office, the Blytheville Police Department, the Osceola  Police Department and the Mississippi County Sheriff's Department.


The individuals arrested Wednesday will be arraigned in federal court in Little Rock on Thursday, March 13 at 10 a.m.


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