By Doug Oakley
Bay Area News Group
Oakland police and federal agents announced the arrest of 60 "worst of the worst" violent criminals during a four-month undercover operation that included the seizure of 92 guns and several pounds of drugs.
Police Chief Howard Jordan said he requested the aid of undercover agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after three children were killed by gunfire in Oakland last year.
"We had three toddlers murdered last year, and we just felt with the escalating violence we needed help," Jordan said Wednesday during a news conference to announce the arrests.
Similar operations have been used in Phoenix and San Diego, officials said. In Oakland, it was called Gideon III and started in February and ended in recent days, officials said.
Jordan said those arrested face mostly federal charges, including assaulting federal agents, but a few face state charges including robbery, selling drugs, and possessing and selling guns.
In addition to the guns, agents seized 6 pounds of methamphetamine, 4 pounds of marijuana, 2 pounds of heroin and a pound of crack cocaine.
The operation included 44 undercover agents from the ATF, half of whom came from out of state, said Acting Special Agent Scot Thomasson.
Jordan credited the operation with bringing down violent crime in the month of May.
He said there were 91 shootings in April, and that number had been cut in half in May. The number of homicides in the city declined from 14 in April to five in May, he said.
Thomasson said his agents, acting on intelligence gathered from Oakland police, went after the most active shooters, drug dealers and robbery crews who were ripping off other criminals for drugs and guns at area "stash houses."
"We ferreted out the worst of the worst in the most criminally infested areas," Thomasson said. "These are the career criminals, the gang members and robbery crews who are some of the most violent on the streets. The robbery crews go to drug and money stash houses and steal from other criminals."
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who attended a news conference at the federal building in downtown Oakland to announce the arrests, said the operation has given some Oakland neighborhoods a rest from violence.
"A woman told me that for the first time in several years she was able to sit on her porch and read the Sunday paper," Quan said.
Jordan said he is happy those arrested are facing federal charges because if they are convicted, they likely will be taken out of California and paroled to communities near the federal prisons where they will have to stay.
He and Thomasson both said the use of undercover ATF agents in Oakland will continue, even though this operation has wrapped up. Neither offered specifics on future operations.
"We're not done," Thomasson said. "We have a framework in place now, and we're going to use it."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.