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York police, feds to keep pursuing drug gangs

Written by Dylan Segelbaum/York Daily Record-Sunday News | Nov 20, 2015 6:46 PM
gang_york_south_side.jpg

A garage with what appears to be a Southside gang tag, seen here on Thursday, is along East Maple street in York. Twelve members of the gang were recently convicted of drug-related charges in federal court.(Photo: Jason Plotkin, York Daily Record)

Following the conviction of 12 members of the Southside gang, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said the department will continue to crackdown on violent criminals.

(York) -- When it comes to a lot of the violent crime that happens in York, police said, much can be traced back to a "small segment" of the population.

In the state system, someone who's convicted of an offense such as illegal possession of firearm might get 1-2 years -- and the police know when certain people are getting out. And so, York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said, officers can almost "set their watches" for when violent crime might spike.

Prosecuting those people in federal court makes a difference, as the sentencing guidelines are much harsher and certain mandatory minimums still exist, he said.

"When we take you federally, when the feds arrest you and you're convicted in federal court, you're going away for quite a bit of time," Kahley said. "We're going in for the big hit, and we want criminals to understand that."

Twelve members of the Southside gang in York were convicted on Monday by a federal jury after three days of deliberation. Before the 7 1/2-week trial started, eight others also pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy. One man, who's already serving a 15- to 40-year sentence for third-degree murder in state prison, is awaiting trial.

Going forward, Kahley said, the department is committed to continuing to work with federal agencies. The U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Peter Smith, affirmed that during a news conference on Wednesday. Some in law enforcement believe there's been a noticeable effect from the arrests of the Southside gang members, though several agree the criminal justice system is not the entire solution to the violence.

The federal government has resources that smaller departments do not have, including intelligence analysts, Kahley said. As part of the partnership, one officer from the York City Police Department, for example, has met with the U.S. Attorney's Office once a week for about the last year to refer cases to it.

And not all of the cases have to be investigations that take two years, like the one into the Southside gang, he said.

Since the arrests of the gang members, Kahley said, he believes that there's been an "immediate impact," as shootings were down early in the year. Though there have been more recently, he said they're not necessarily related to the Southside gang. Kahley said he did not have specific numbers.

Today, there are between 20 and 21 gangs in York -- though that number fluctuates, he said. Some of the groups are influenced by national organization including the Crips, Bloods and Latin Kings.

Prosecutors and police said the recent convictions are only part of the solution to the violence. That's because they cannot address some of the underlying issues to the problem, including poverty, they said.

"We're not kidding ourself that crime is going to be erased," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Consiglio, who was one of three prosecutors in the case, said in an interview on Tuesday. "Part of it is to break the idea that being assembled as a gang is beneficial."

During the trial, some defense attorneys involved in the case denied that their clients were part of the Southside gang -- or that it even exists at all.

John Yaninek represented Maurice Atkinson, 28, who was convicted of racketeering conspiracy and related offenses, in the trial. Yaninek said the government proved only that Atkinson was involved in a fight at a convenience store on Route 30 back in September 2012.

To G. Scott Gardner, his client, Eugene Rice, was just "an independent guy selling drugs, along with a bunch of other people." He was arrested in March 2009 after, police said, he sold $50 of crack to a confidential informant on Rose Avenue near South Newberry Street in York, according to court documents.

Rice, 27, was found guilty of drug trafficking conspiracy and drug possession with intent to deliver in the federal case -- but was acquitted of the racketeering conspiracy charge.

"From the beginning, we said there was no gang," Gardner said. "Or if there was a gang, we don't know about it."

The indictment unsealed in September 2014 against the Southside gang members outlines 62 crimes they're said to have committed going back to 2002.

The gang was originally affiliated with the Bloods, but has no formal structure, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. The government said the gang is involved in drug trafficking and violence.

It operates near East Maple and South Duke streets, an area that's known as "the Jungle," according to the indictment. Some of its other "primary drug blocks" include: South Pine and East Poplar streets; West Maple and Manor streets; and Cleveland Avenue.

Near East Maple and South Duke streets, Roberto Colon, 20, on Thursday was helping to restore a condemned home, as part of a project from Crispus Attucks Youthbuild Charter School. Colon said he believes that Maple Street has gotten better.

Djuan Freeland, 32, the construction site leader for the project, said that they have not been bothered in the neighborhood. Some people who've passed by the home have thanked the students for the work they're doing, he said.

Several people also said they've noticed an improvement, though they declined to give their names, saying they feared for their safety. Others, though, said the area hasn't changed. "Southside all day" was spray-painted on a garage near East Maple and South Duke streets -- though it's not clear if that was a reference to the gang.

Just over from West Maple and Manor streets, Phil and Kathy Rittenhouse were taking a walk in a light rain.

They've lived on Kurtz Avenue near Jessop Place for almost 13 years. About four years ago, Phil Rittenhouse, 57, said that he was hit with a fragment from a stray bullet near Penn Park.

Now, he said, they feel safe walking in the area. It's also helped that a bar in the area was closed down, Phil Rittenhouse said.

"It's definitely a better place than when we moved in," he said. "Things are better than they used to be."

 

The 12 men convicted on Monday:

• Marc "Marky D" Hernandez, 30, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; drug possession with intent to deliver; and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking.

• Rolando "Cruz" Mico, 30, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; drug possession with intent to deliver; and two counts of possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking.

• Douglas "Killer" Kelly, 37, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Roscoe "P Shawn" Villega, 41, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Tyree "Ree" Eatmon, 27, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Maurice "Mo" Atkinson, 28, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Anthony "Kanye" Sistrunk, 27, of: racketeering conspiracy; drug trafficking conspiracy; and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Eugene "B Mor" Rice, 28, of: drug trafficking conspiracy and drug possession with  intent to deliver.

• Angel "Pocko" Schueg, 26, of drug trafficking conspiracy and drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Jalik "Murder Cat" Frederick, 22, of: drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Brandon "B Or" Orr, 23, of: drug possession with intent to deliver.

• Jabree "Minute" Williams, 24, of: drug possession with intent to deliver.

 


This article comes to us through a partnership between York Daily Record and WITF.

 

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