From a command center set up inside the Wayne County Sheriff's Office annex, deputies with the U.S. Marshals Service directed an operation this week aimed at taking potentially armed, dangerous and habitual offenders off the streets.
A combined force of 74 federal, state and local law enforcement agents and officers swept through Wayne County over a two-day period, conducting warrant enforcement and warrantless searches.
Between 6 a.m. Tuesday and 11 p.m. Wednesday, law enforcement arrested 30 people on a total of 60 charges. More than 42 warrants were served leading to the seizure of two firearms, 178 rounds of ammunition and undisclosed quantities of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
The charges filed range from illegal weapons and narcotics possession to probation violations and other crimes.
Operation Eagle Eye brought together the Marshals, along with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Wayne ABC enforcement, the N.C. Department of Probation and Parole, and the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and Goldsboro Police Department, to root out some of the county's worst offenders.
"Gang members were high on the priority for searches, they were priority one. Validated gang members, anybody with any sort of violent nature charges, repeat offenders," U.S. Marshals Service supervisory deputy Damon Adams said.
Armed with a list of people on probation, agents and officers broke into teams working overlapping shifts and commenced to hitting the streets.
Adams said the operation is one of many conducted recently by the U.S. Department of Justice in its Eastern District of North Carolina.
"The Marshals Service, we have been conducting a few of these operations throughout the Eastern District. But what we try to do is show a coalition with our federal, state and local partners, to show the community that we are out there for them. We are operating as one for the community," he said.
In fairness, not all of the searches were expected to yield seizures or arrests. The goal was quite the opposite, Adams said.
"It's a win-win, as far as we see it. If, when probation services goes in and they perform the searches and we don't find anything, it means the people who were awarded probation by the judges are doing what they are supposed to do."
If the person is not complying with the guidelines of his or her probation, however, their outcome is much different.
"They'll be arrested."
Not all arrests made result in federal charges. Most cases, at least for now, will remain local.
For those who do face federal charges, though, they won't be taken to jail in Wayne County. They will instead be shipped to a federal holding facility and denied bond until such time that they can appear before a federal judge. If that happens, that person won't again see the streets of Wayne County until either the charges are dismissed, the person is acquitted or, if the person is convicted, serves their full sentence -- there is no such thing as parole in the federal prison system -- and is then released.
"There haven't been any cases taken federal yet; there are some that are being evaluated. We've made numerous arrests. We have seized narcotics, firearms, ammunition," Deputy U.S. Marshal Bryan Konig said.
Adams and Konig were wrapping things up Wednesday night when they and Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce decided to let the community in on what was going on.
"We have been having some violence in Wayne County, in Goldsboro, so we definitely wanted to make our presence felt in conjunction with our local and state partners," Adams said.
He said it is important for the citizens in the area to know that the operation was not a one-time deal. He said that the federal and local police presence is a constant. For those who are living as they should and abiding by the law, he hopes that is seen as a good thing.
For others, he intimated, be warned.
"The guys who are not allowing the grandmothers to sit out on the porch in the evening and enjoy the sunset, because he is out in the neighborhood doing whatever, we want them out," Adams said.
To accomplish an operation of this scope, the cooperation from the sheriff, Goldsboro police and probation is paramount, he added.
"If there is no buy-in there, we can't do it. If we can't all sit down at the table and come together ... it won't happen."
In a press release issued Thursday, Goldsboro Police Chief Mike West thanked all of the agencies involved for in the operation, from its planning to its implementation, for their efforts in keeping the county and city residents safe.
"I appreciate their continued cooperation and professionalism and look forward to more joint operations," West said.
Pierce, speaking to the News-Argus Wednesday night, said he was proud of all of the officers and agencies involved and that the focus will remain on doing whatever law enforcement can through such combined efforts to keep the county and city streets as safe as possible.
"I want to thank all of the agencies that participated in this operation. We have had federal, state, local agencies all working together without a hitch," he said. "This is a continuing effort to rid Wayne County of the violent crimes that we are having to combat here."
Editors note ---- A list of the names of those charged in Operation Eagle Eye was not readily available at press time. The federal agencies involved do not release images of persons charged with federal crimes.