Webb Avenue resident Annie Johnson was getting her grandchildren ready for school when Mobile police entered a home across the street.
“I was wondering what was going on,” Johnson, 75, said, as she peeked through the screen door of her home. “I’ve never seen anything like this here.”
Police arrested five suspects and confiscated marijuana, spice, Xanax, a .22 caliber rifle, a 9mm handgun and close to $1,000 in cash as a result of the morning raid on four homes on Webb Avenue and McVay Drive Thursday to help neutralize one of the First Precinct’s trouble areas, said Maj. Richard M. Burton, with the department’s Investigative Operations Division.
As a result of the operation, Yolanda Walker, 48 and a 17-year-old juvenile were arrested for possession of marijuana. Jamar Black, 24, and Kiara Pritchett, 25, were arrested for possession of a controlled substance and possession of marijuana. John Walker, 58, was arrested on two counts of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.
“The measure is not the amount of drugs seized (during this operation) but the reduction of violent crime in this area moving forward,” said MPD Chief James Barber.
Officials involved in the operation met near Hank Aaron Stadium before 6 a.m. and rolled into the neighborhood in order to catch the subjects by surprise. Search warrants were executed at the four residences and the arrests were made simultaneously without incident.
The operation targeted what police called a “hotspot” because in the last three years they’ve investigated a total of 995 calls in a two-block radius in the neighborhood. Those calls include 371 miscellaneous crimes, 220 domestic assaults, 13 vehicle thefts, five sex crimes, two homicides and two arsons, most of which police believe are connected to drugs.
“We’re going after the drug trade and we’re going to disrupt it,” said MPD Capt. John Barber.
One lieutenant involved in the operation said the homes searched were drug “safe havens,” where low-level dealers felt they could operate and move at free will.
“When they find a location where they can get away with it they’ll set up shop,” the lieutenant said.
Webb Avenue resident Melissa DeLoach and her father, Calvin Deloach watched from their porch as police entered another house.
“I’m trying to see what’s going on now,” she said. “I woke up and looked out the window and saw this. “
Melissa DeLoach said she had seen arrests in the neighborhood before, but nothing as coordinated as the operation Thursday.
Calvin DeLoach said he hadn’t previously noticed anything suspicious across the street.
“I thought they were nice people,” he said.
After the raid, patrol officers were also set to serve up to 89 outstanding warrants in the area. On McVay Drive and Webb Avenue alone, police expected to serve up to 25 warrants.
Thursday’s operation was designed to clean up the neighborhood , but smaller operations at the precinct level would help maintain it, said First Precinct Lt. Roy Hodges.
“This is not going to end,” he said. “This is the first part of it… We will continue to police the area to make it so the residents aren’t afraid.”
Barton added similar operations could be expected in other trouble spots in the future.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. Feb. 13 to include proper number of arrests as well as information about those arrested.