By Jeff Lehr
The Joplin Police Department revealed Thursday that a three-state property-crimes task force that was formed in April concluded operations last week after making several arrests and recovering more than $30,000 worth of stolen property.
Lt. Michael Hobson, head of the criminal investigations division of the Police Department, said the Tri-State Task Force Against an Increase in Crime was formed April 13 to address a March spike in property crimes in the area. The short-term task force concluded its joint operations Friday, although some investigations that sprang from the effort are being continued by participating agencies.
Hobson said the Joplin Police Department initiated the effort after meeting with law-enforcement officials from surrounding agencies and realizing that several suspects in crimes committed in Joplin were suspected of crimes in those jurisdictions as well.
Hobson said some of those arrested in the operation are known members of a prison gang dubbed the Joplin Honkies.
“Some of them are Joplin Honkies,” Hobson said. “The majority of them are not.”
The property crimes that were being committed do not reflect an organized gang effort, Hobson said. He said the only place the gang has any actual form of organization is within Missouri’s prison system. On the outside, the Honkies tend to be only loosely associated and “not that organized,” he said.
Hobson said Joplin saw an 80 percent increase in property crimes in March. He said most of the increase was in burglaries of businesses, thefts from vehicles and vehicle thefts. Vehicle thefts alone rose by 250 percent, he said.
Hobson said two defendants who were taken into custody in stolen-vehicle chases inside the Joplin city limits before the formation of the task force are believed to have contributed to the spike in property crimes.
Daniel Hylton, 23, 806 S. Pennsylvania Ave., was taken into custody after a chase March 31. He is charged with first-degree tampering, assault on a law-enforcement officer and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Matthew K. Putnam, 34, 2729 Birch Drive, was taken into custody after a chase April 7. He is charged with first-degree tampering and leaving the scene of a motor-vehicle accident.
Hobson said the Newton County Sheriff’s Department’s arrest of Steven W. Mortell, 34, of Brookline, on April 24 after the chase and crash of another stolen vehicle produced information for task-force investigators that led to the recovery of $30,000 worth of stolen trailers, vehicle parts and other items in McDonald County. Mortell was charged with first-degree tampering and felony resisting arrest.
Hobson said the task force also recovered five stolen vehicles and another stolen trailer, and seized three methamphetamine labs besides developing multiple leads that could produce additional arrests and charges.
Hobson attributed the arrests of the following people to the work of the task force and said other charges are anticipated against some of those charged.
Shawn D. Burrows, 31, of Baxter Springs, Kan. He was arrested on three warrants and allegedly was found to be in possession of drug paraphernalia. Burrows has several charges pending from multiple vehicle pursuits by Jasper County sheriff’s deputies. He also is charged with a probation violation in Newton County.
Megan J. Briggs, 30, of Baxter Springs. She was arrested on warrants from Cherokee County, Kan., alleging possession of meth and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Adam G. Gustafson, 25, 922 S. Chestnut Ave. He was arrested in the investigation of a string of burglaries of Joplin businesses in April. He is charged in Jasper County with three counts of burglary, and single counts of stealing a motor vehicle, tampering with a motor vehicle and possession of burglary tools.
Chad R. Skelton, 27, 122 N. Maple Ave. He allegedly was found in possession of a stolen vehicle and narcotics. He allegedly had a motel key that led to the search of a room where a meth lab, a stolen handgun and a stolen laptop computer were found.
Sarah E. Hibbert, 27, 122 N. Maple Ave. She was taken into custody in alleged possession of a stolen vehicle and narcotics.
Johnny R. Goodwin, 43, of Quapaw, Okla. He was arrested on four felony warrants from Ottawa County, Okla. A stolen generator, fuel tank and pickup truck allegedly were found on his property.
Michael G. Alexander, 24, 2515 S. Pennsylvania Ave. He was arrested in alleged possession of stolen items from a Joplin burglary.
Robert L. Sneed, 35, 4501 Oaklawn Drive. He was arrested for allegedly breaking into cars at motels in Joplin and allegedly was found in possession of numerous stolen items. He is charged in Jasper County with stealing and receiving stolen property. He is charged in Newton County with stealing and knowingly purchasing more than 9 grams of medications containing ephedrine within 30 days.
Gregory L. Sanders, 35, 3027 E. Ninth St. He was arrested by Joplin patrol officers during the alleged commission of a burglary.
Christy L. Sweet, 28, 2203 E. 25th St. She was arrested on felony warrants out of Newton County alleging parole violation and two counts of stealing. She also is charged in Jasper County with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.
Blake Gandy, 23, of Galena, Kan. He was arrested by the Jasper County Drug Task Force on five Joplin city warrants.
Randy J. Beckett, 36, 1906 S. Missouri Ave. He was arrested on five Joplin city warrants.
Scotty G. Brown, 32, 2005 S. Bird Ave. He was arrested on two Joplin city warrants.
Thomas P. Webb, 38, of rural Joplin. He was arrested in Ottawa County on a Jasper County warrant alleging forgery.
Besides Joplin police, agencies participating in the task force were the sheriff’s departments in Jasper and Newton counties in Missouri, Cherokee County in Kansas, and Ottawa County in Oklahoma; the Kansas Bureau of Investigation; the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the federal Drug Enforcement Administration; and Missouri Probation and Parole officers.
By Jeff Lehr
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