Dozens busted in federal gun and drug operation in Hickory - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Dozens busted in federal gun and drug operation in Hickory

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HICKORY, NC (WBTV) -

A seven month long undercover sting operation in Hickory has led to federal indictments against 19 people and state charges against 9 others. All the charges relate to guns or drugs or both.

"Some of the people may face life in prison if convicted," said Hickory Police Chief Tom Adkins.

The goal of the investigation was to reduce gun violence that often comes with illegal drugs.

Federal investigators would not give details of the operation itself but the cases were built over a long period of time, they said on Tuesday. 

Those arrested were considered "street level" offenders, said one agent. Suspects were taken to the Hickory Police Department with those facing federal charges being transported in groups to Federal Court in Charlotte for an appearance before a judge.

The 9 others arrested on state warrants were taken to the Catawba County jail and will have a first appearance before a District Court judge later this week. 

At Thomas Street AME Zion church, in Conover, members feel prayers for a safer neighborhood are being answered.

The round up of suspects came during the second day of the fall revival.

Reverend Dwayne Tutt pastors to some of members living close to the drug dealing.

"Absolutely this is a step in the right direction. You have to continue to work at it" Tutt said. This community has a very strong watch group." 

Residents do feel threatened, and offering an opinion in a culture where snitching carries consequences means hiding ones face.

However, concern is expressed for the next generation from one resident who did not want to be identified.

He said, "We still have a lot of younger kids coming up. And we try to set the right example for them."

Officials say more arrests are possible. 53 handguns, 19 long rifles, and 10 shotguns were seized during the undercover operation as well as thousands of pills.

One agent said the federal shutdown happened during a critical part of the operation but no one stopped working despite not getting paid during the period.

Adkins believes the operation will have an effect on violent crime in the area and hopes it sends a message to anyone who might be involved in violence.

"We will not tolerate it in this community."

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