The West Alabama Narcotics Task Force, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the U.S. Attorney’s Office today announced the arrest of 10 people in a targeted drugs and firearm operation.

ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Luke Iverson said the armed trafficking organization bust resulted in a 61-count indictment against the 10 suspects, but there may be more arrests and more indictments in the future.

“The ATF’s mission is to reduce violent crime and protect the public,” he said. “We will use all means necessary to combat that problem.”

The men and women arrested are no strangers to criminal activity, said ATF Assistant Agent in Charge David Hyche, and the investigation began back in September.

“The 10 individuals we arrested in the first phase of arrests in this investigation had an average of over seven prior arrests each,” Hyche said.

All those arrests add in investigation time and costs, and ties up the judicial system. The federal charges mean there will be no possibility for parole if they’re convicted, Hyche said.

This was an armed trafficking ring using violence to further their business, Hyche said, and five of the nine firearms recovered had been stolen. Authorities also recovered about 2 pounds of ice methamphetamine, along with smaller amounts of powdered and crack cocaine and synthetic marijuana.

“We had 25 gun store burglaries in Alabama in 2016, and from what I understand we’re No. 1 in the nation for gun store burglaries,” Hyche said. Hyche did not say whether anyone arrested was involved in any of the gun store burglaries.

But store burglaries aren’t the only way criminals are getting guns. A big problem, Hyche said, is that many legal gun owners aren’t properly locking up and storing their guns.

“Please write down your make, models and security numbers and keep them where you can provide them to law enforcement if your guns are stolen,” Hyche said.

And a vehicle is never a secure place for a gun, Hyche said. NRA Family, which is part of the National Rifle Association, has a guide for keeping guns secure right here.

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