The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit has been honored as the Florida Gang Investigators Association’s (FGIA) “Gang Unit of the Year.” The award recognizes outstanding unit accomplishments for the past year, including the creation or development of innovative gang enforcement strategies to combat the hundreds of documented gang members in unincorporated Hillsborough County. It coincides with “National Gang Violence Prevention Week,” which takes place September 20-26, 2020.
Since July 2019, the HCSO Gang Unit has taken a proactive approach to deter gang activity, which has resulted in the arrest of numerous individuals. Those arrested include gang members, gang associates and individuals committing crimes in areas of high gang activity. The Gang Unit has found much success through research of gang members on various social media platforms. This approach has allowed the unit to identify and document new gang members. It has also provided intelligence on gang hangout locations and where criminal activity is occurring. With this information, the HCSO Gang Unit has been able to arrest 170 subjects and has led to the recovery of illegal narcotics, firearms and stolen property.
The use of surveillance cameras has also been an integral component of the HCSO Gang Unit’s proactive enforcement. During an operation in September 2019, detectives utilized surveillance cameras to monitor a group of about 10 subjects who had been loitering in an apartment complex that was a known hangout spot for Money Power Respect (MPR) and Nine Trey Blood gang members. Based on intelligence gathered, the HCSO Gang Unit was able to identify a high ranking MPR gang member. Detectives also learned that the Nine Trey Blood gang out of New York was in the process of forming an alliance with the MPR gang to sell narcotics in the Tampa area. The high-ranking MPR gang member was seen on surveillance video getting into a car and leaving the apartment complex. Detectives conducted a traffic stop and the gang member fled on foot. After a short foot pursuit, the suspect was apprehended and was found to be in possession of narcotics and a handgun with a removed serial number. The gang member was a four-time convicted felon that had just been released from Florida State Prison. He was charged with multiple offenses, including Armed Trafficking in MDMA and Felon in Possession of a Firearm. A working relationship with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) also led to federal charges and disrupted the narcotics alliance between the two gangs. Craigory Reeves, 29, was recently sentenced to 23 years in Federal Prison.
Other notable arrests include a Mongols MC Outlaw Motorcycle Gang member arrested for two counts of Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon. During the arrest, detectives found two concealed weapons on him. Already a convicted felon, the Mongols gang member was additionally charged with two counts of Carrying a Concealed Weapon by a Violent Career Criminal and was later sentenced to 30 years in Florida State Prison.
Through a relationship with the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC), the HCSO Gang Unit received information about a documented member of the Bound for Glory gang, which is a white supremacist group with ties to the Aryan Brotherhood. The member moved from North Carolina to Hillsborough County. A search warrant was obtained and detectives found illegal narcotics and handwritten letters (gang paraphernalia) from inmates still incarcerated, who also had ties to the Aryan Brotherhood. He was charged with violating his parole for Second Degree Murder and extradited back to North Carolina.
HCSO’s Gang Unit has also provided assistance to other task forces, including the agency’s Selective Operation Section (VICE). From January to June 2020, the Gang Unit helped with a human trafficking investigation. As a result, seven human trafficking victims were identified. Another two individuals were documented as Latin King gang members and four were gang associates. All six were charged with Human Trafficking and RICO violations.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the many accomplishments of our Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit over the course of the last year,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “They have taken a team-first approach, working with our patrol and Street Crimes Units to target gang members and hangout locations. Myself, along with the 1.5 million people here in Hillsborough County, thank the unit for their efforts to thwart gang activity in our community. While their commitment to combatting it has been impressive, it is equally important to note that they have spent hours upon hours in our communities hosting several events and presentations focused on spreading gang awareness and prevention strategies. These relationships have often provided HCSO with useful sources of gang-related intelligence.”