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N. Shore sweeps result in 37 arrests

Raids targeted violent gangs

Law enforcement officials displayed 34 guns seized yesterday during an antigang sweep by local, state, and federal officers. Law enforcement officials displayed 34 guns seized yesterday during an antigang sweep by local, state, and federal officers. (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe)
By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / November 6, 2010

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The targets, according to law enforcement officials, were leaders of the violent street gangs that have terrorized Lynn and communities throughout the North Shore. They allegedly sold heroin, marijuana, cocaine, and crack cocaine. They had handguns, sawed-off shotguns, a .40-caliber submachine gun, even an AR-15 assault rifle, the type of weapon used in the military, authorities said.

The alleged gang members and associates were so violent that they shot rivals’ girlfriends, burned down their houses, and some of them considered shooting up the christening of an opposing gang member’s child, according to court records.

Police called them “impact players,’’ the leaders who have fueled bloody gang wars over the years — and 48 of them are now facing federal and state gun and drug charges as a result of an 18-month investigation based in the North Shore. Of the 48 who were charged, 37 were arrested yesterday in targeted sweeps by a team of 500 law enforcement officers. Three people remain at large, and the remaining eight were already in custody.

Authorities called the investigation Operation Melting Pot because of the mix of different gang members and associates targeted in the sweep.

“We hope that this well-coordinated effort will bring peace to the streets of Lynn,’’ US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said yesterday. “We focus on these types of cases because I genuinely believe we can make a difference, and we do make a difference.’’

The investigation, which started in Lynn and branched out to other communities, including Lowell, was carried out by local, state, and federal law enforcement officers making up the FBI-led North Shore Gang Task Force.

Authorities said repeated cycles of violence between rival gang members have taken over neighborhoods, and can be traced to the June 4, 2000, shooting in Lynn of a prominent Bloods gang member by the founder of an opposing group, the Avenue King Crips.

Each anniversary since brings a new level of violence — during the 2008 anniversary, police responded to seven shootings in eight hours. One person was killed. Eight other shootings occurred in 2009.

Associates and allies of the Bloods and the Avenue King Crips have joined the violence, officials said.

The FBI led an investigation into the violence in 2007 and 17 people from the Deuce Boyz/Soldiers group, the most powerful at the time, were charged. But police also saw other gangs trying to fill the void, and more violence occurred.

The first phase of Operation Melting Pot began 18 months ago and 13 people were charged by May. This summer has been the quietest since the gang wars erupted, a result authorities credited to the arrests.

Authorities said yesterday that the charges brought against the 48 other people will put an even larger dent in the violent gang crime.

During the investigation, authorities confiscated more than a kilogram of crack cocaine, two kilograms of cocaine, a half-kilogram of heroin and approximately seven pounds of marijuana. More than $60,000, believed to be the proceeds from drug sales, was also seized.

The clearest indicator of the dangerousness of the gang members was the type of weaponry they had. Some guns were seized during raids of homes yesterday. Others were simply bought on the streets. Authorities displayed them on a table at a news conference yesterday: the Mac 11 semi-automatic machine gun, the sawed-off shotguns, the SKS rifles.

“It is not difficult to imagine,’’ Lowell Police Superintendent Ken Lavallee said, “how many lives have been saved because of the seizure of these weapons.’’

Milton Valencia can be reached at mvalencia@globe.com.