Over the past year, Project EJECT – the United States Attorney Office’s holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to combating and reducing violent crime throughout Mississippi – has seen much success, resulting in the indictment of 41 defendants for federal crimes involving drugs, guns and violence.
Those indictments have resulted in the seizure of 76 illegal guns, 31 arrests and 21 convictions, with an average prison sentence of more than four years. Mike Hurst, who serves as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, says that success will continue with the project’s four primary components: prosecution, prevention, re-entry and awareness.
“Through Project EJECT, we are bringing together our communities and all levels of law enforcement in five cities throughout the Southern District of Mississippi,” Hurst said during a Sept. 29 news conference at Hattiesburg Police Department. “That’s here in Hattiesburg, Jackson, Meridian, Natchez and Moss Point.
“If you look at the numbers here in the City of Hattiesburg over the past year, in 2019, after we launched Project EJECT … it’s been incredible to see the reduction in crime. There’s an almost 30 percent drop in murders in one year, a little over 3 percent drop in robberies in 2019, and even if you look into 2020, we’re seeing a 25 percent drop in the number of murders to this point in 2020 just from last year.”
Project EJECT is made possible in the Hattiesburg area with the help of the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office, the Lamar County Sheriff’s Office, the Hattiesburg Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
On the morning of Sept. 29, officers arrested the following individuals:
•Shane Ware, who in January was indicted for trafficking approximately 230 grams of 100 percent pure methamphetamine.
•Alfred Richards, who in February sold more than 100 grams of meth at a 99 percent purity rate.
•Demetric Evans, who on two separate occasions sold more than 200 grams of meth with a 100 percent purity rate.
•Giorgio Scott, who was indicted in May for possession of illegal ammunition.
That same day, police seized five illegal guns, more than 11 pounds of meth and other drugs, and arrested six additional criminal associates who will likely be taken in on state charges.
Officials also have been in contact with Bradford Mark, who on two occasions in January trafficked almost half a kilogram of meth. Mark is expected to turn himself in to authorities.
Earlier this year, officials also arrested Amos Blanks, who was trafficking meth for years in Hattiesburg. Blanks has pleaded guilty in the matter.
“Each one of the charges carry not less than 10 years in federal prison, and up to life, including and up to a $10 million fine,” Hurst said. “To say that these men and women in law enforcement performed an admirable duty for our citizens here in Hattiesburg, and throughout the Pine Belt, is quite an understatement.
“To take these fugitives, these drug dealers, frankly these criminal thugs, off of the streets, only makes our citizens safer and only makes our neighborhoods more secure. It makes our communities a better place to live.”
Hattiesburg Police Chief Anthony Parker said he wants the citizens of the city to know that his department will not tolerate any element of criminal activity.
“We are doing everything in our power to make our city safer and to continue in our efforts to improve the overall quality of life for each of (the residents),” he said. “With the help of local agencies, as well as federal authorities, we are continuing to fight and gain more ground in the war on crime. U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and (his) staff have been a tremendous asset in our reduction of crime. (They) have helped us remove some of the most violent offenders from the streets of the City of Hattiesburg.”
Project EJECT is an acronym that stands for Empower Justice, Expel Crime Together.
“We’re empowering justice by going into our schools and educating our youth about making good decisions,” Hurst said. “We’re empowering justice by helping offenders, once they get out of prison, get back on their feet and get them the resources they need, whether it’s a job, documents, education or whatever, so that they can become law-abiding citizens.
“It’s expelling crime from our communities – black, white, purple, green, whatever – we as human beings want to keep ourselves and our families safe. Crime knows no political party, it knows no race, and it affects all of us. So expelling crime is essential, and we can’t do all of that unless we do it together.”