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Task force works to quash crime in Northern Virginia

In its first two years, the Northern Virginia Violent Crimes Task Force, comprised of officers from local police and federal agencies, has tallied more than 200 state and federal convictions of offenders dealing in drug trafficking, drug sales, robbery, burglary and other criminal acts in the area.

Recently, in Manassas Park, the 40-plus member task force raided an apartment after a two-year investigation, carrying out 11 search warrants, claiming to have confiscated 1.5 kilograms of cocaine and five weapons, and arresting nine people. Such an investigation would have stretched the small police force of Manassas Park to the seams. But by joining forces, law enforcement officials can work together on cases they couldn't do alone.

The task force puts together local knowledge with federal knowhow and powers. With federal involvement, authorities can cross state lines in their investigations, which so far have targeted suspected drug traffickers, violent offenders and home invaders.

The group consists of agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives; police from Alexandria, Arlington County, Fairfax County and Manassas Park; and officers from the Prince William County and Stafford County sheriff's offices. Its headquarters are in Falls Church, Virginia.

It claims among its successes stopping the transport of drugs and guns, as well as stopping out-of-state groups known for robbery and home invasion. The task force's work led to the arrest and conviction of five men from the Philadelphia area who law enforcement officials said were planning to rob a drug house in Fairfax County. The men received sentences of as long as 30 years.

It's important to remember in wide-ranging investigations with numerous targets that everyone's legal rights are respected, so otherwise innocent people don't get ensnared. Federal investigations can be intimidating, and anyone who learns they are the target of one should consult with an attorney.

Source: Washington Post, "ATF Task Force tries to tackle violent crime in Northern Virginia," Clarence Williams, Dec. 28, 2011

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