OGDEN — A crackdown on drug and violent crime in central Ogden has yielded 115 guns, 270 pounds of illicit drugs and criminal charges against 74 people the past 18 months.
Federal, state and local law enforcers put some of those weapons, including a grenade launcher, and packages of methamphetamine on display Friday to show the success of Project Safe Neighborhoods.
The federally funded program targeted a 5-square-mile downtown area for a police “surge” starting in April 2018 because of its history of gun and drug problems. It includes 8,047 households and more than 22,000 Ogden and Weber County residents.
In one case, police broke up a large drug ring, arresting six people, including a member of the Silent Aryan Warriors, and seized 195 pounds of meth and a pound of heroin.
“That highlights taking the game to the bad guys,” said U.S. Attorney John Huber.
Shootings in the area dropped from 69 in the first nine months of last year to 32 to date this year, Huber said. Overall, violent crime, fueled primarily by drugs, has decreased 20% as a result of the program, he said.
If Ogden feels safer, it’s because it is safer, Huber said. Police, he said, are determined to not let “gangbangers” and drug dealers take over street corners and neighborhoods.
“We do not let the criminal element dictate what our quality of life will be,” Huber said.
Ogden Police Chief Randy Watt said it’s clear that without the federal resources, time and dollars, along with the successful prosecution of the offenders, the city’s crime rate would not have dipped to where it is now.
Watt said police have used confidential informants, undercover operations, anonymous tips and technology to bring criminal cases against drug dealers and people who aren’t legally allowed to have guns.
Weber County Attorney Chris Allred said historically a lack of resources has limited his office’s ability to prosecute violent criminals. But working with the U.S. Attorney’s Office under Project Safe Neighborhoods, the county has been able to federally indict three times as many felons.
“It’s really been a great success,” he said. “It has resulted in the removal of a lot more guns and drugs from our neighborhoods, exactly what it’s designed to do.”
To date, 20 of the 74 people charged with crimes have been sent to federal prison. The average sentence has been four years.