By Kevin Kelley
A handful of gangs from the West Side of Cleveland were responsible for a series of break-ins and thefts across the Westshore, according to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office.
Members of those gangs were taken into custody by law enforcement agencies from across Cuyahoga County last week.
Indictments by a Cuyahoga County grand jury were obtained against 16 adults, and criminal complaints were filed against 36 youths in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. The charges range from participating in a criminal gang and aggravated burglary to receiving stolen property and breaking and entering. Additional charges are likely, prosecutors added.
The gangs, which were based out of the West Side of Cleveland, went by names such as BBE, #1300 and Detroit Takes Over. Yet they were willing to travel outside their domain to commit their crimes, Assistant County Prosecutor Duane Deskins said. In addition to Cleveland, the gangs allegedly committed crimes in the Westshore communities of Fairview Park, Lakewood, Rocky River, Westlake and Olmsted Township, as well as Parma, Parma Heights, Garfield Heights, Strongsville, Middleburg Heights, Berea, Avon Lake and North Ridgeville, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Several police departments detected a pattern in the break-ins and thefts, and detectives began meeting weeks ago to share information and leads, prosecutors said. Deskins attributed the break in solving the crime spree to “unparalleled cooperation and collaboration” among law enforcement agencies.
Mark Miller, a detective with the Fairview Park Police Department, participated in the multi-agency investigation and roundup of suspects. At least seven of the 52 arrested last week were involved in crimes that took place in Fairview Park, police Chief Erich Upperman told West Life.
Prosecutor Timothy McGinty addressed the strike against the gangs during an appearance before Westshore Democratic Party clubs at Fairview Park City Hall Thursday, the same day the arrests were announced.
“Almost all very young,” McGinty said of those who were arrested. “Some under the age of 18, and some just over the age of 18.”
Cleveland police obtained information about the gangs’ activities, McGinty said, and alerted suburban departments.
“I think (law enforcement) got it in the early stages,” McGinty said. “They were operating in groups, breaking into homes or cars or easy, ‘low-hanging fruit’ opportunities. It was not a sophisticated group.”
Rocky River police Chief Kelly Stillman commented that while the arrests will not stop break-ins and robberies, they have “made a huge dent” in the problem. “I’m very confident that we’ll clear most of these crimes up,” he added, stating that some of the crimes are still under investigation.
Stillman also credited the collaboration of area police departments and the prosecutor’s office. “It was about half technology and half intelligence,” Stillman said. “Ten to 15 years ago, this technology did not exist.”
Bay Village police Chief Mark Spaetzel told West Life he was pleased by the prosecutor’s action.
“It’s been a matter of concern to us as well as other police departments around the area, and we’ve all been working on it,” Spaetzel said. ‘This should clear up a lot of incidents and make it better for our communities.”
(West Life reporters Jeff Gallatin and Sue Botos contributed to this article.)