WSAZ Investigates: The Detroit Connection


DETROIT, Mich. (WSAZ) -- In the past few weeks, we've told you about shootings and deaths arrests involving suspects with connections to Detroit.

West Virginia State troopers said it's an ongoing problem, with one calling it "an epidemic."

NewsChannel 3 reporter Dan Griffin went to Detroit neighborhoods that are exporting crime to our hometowns.

When he and his photographer prepared for a ride-along with the Detroit Crime Commission, a group helping in the battle against crime, they were encouraged to leave their big camera behind.

As usual, the group packed guns and ammo for safety. Then our crew went to the 7 and 8 Mile neighborhoods to see the crime firsthand.

"Drugs, gangs, blight," said Detroit Crime Commission Director of Intelligence, Lyle Dungy.

Welcome to the Red Zone, nicknamed for Blood.

"Reduced economic activity."

The area covers several blocks outside downtown Detroit. NewsChannel 3's Dan Griffin went on a ride to the neighborhoods, scarred with graffiti, burned homes, trash, crime and an inescapable feeling of despair.

"The Red Zone is an area that is home to probably a number of different gangs," said Dungy. "But the one in particular that we are interested in is called the Seven Mile Bloods."

We recognized that gang name and you may have, too.

Charleston Police arrested four members of the Seven Mile Bloods of Detroit last week, in connection with two shootings on the West Side.

Tymel McKinney, 18, was killed.

"This was a group that appears to be very prone to violence."

Police said Darrell Carter, Jr. hired a hit on a Charleston Police Lieutenant. Carter said his orders came from a Detroit gang boss.

That's no surprise to Andy Arena of the Detroit Crime Commission. He's a former FBI agent.

Commissioners told us fighting those threats is key.

"When you get to the point where gangs can threaten law enforcement without any repercussions, then you've lost a war," said Dungy.

Arena showed us what the war looks like. In the Red Zone, we found shrines to dead children and gang members on utility poles.

We also learned how the problem there, spreads to our region.

"This is a hub, supply and demand is set up here in Huntington, they can purchase heroin cheap and almost double, if not make more than double their money here in the Huntington area," said West Virginia State Trooper, Will Hash.

We were told very little crime actually happens in downtown Detroit, instead, much of it happens in outlying areas and extends on to states like West Virginia.

We wanted to know how the drug trade connects to us.

Arena said it's all about finding fertile ground. Drug dealers are sent from the Motor City down highways like I-75 and U.S. 23 in Ohio.

From there, criminals set up shop in many small cities.

"Lima, Ohio, Chillicothe, into West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky," said Arena.

That means a steady pipeline of drugs to Huntington and Charleston and crime from Detroit on our streets.

"They make a connection to these other areas, get an understanding of the current drug trade and in knowing that the prices are set by supply and demand, the supply is small and the demand is high, the prices are going to be high, so if they make a determination that there is a potential market, that's lucrative, then they'll send down some enterprising members," said Dungy.

Arena said it's convenient for low-level members to set-up shop back in our region. There's little competition and the return on investment is high.

"You could take a pill, get $10 for it here, take it down there, get $40 or $50, same thing with heroin."

Police told us some dealers will stay for days, others for months. Many come back.

Arena told me the police need help if we want to disrupt the Detroit connection.

"You've got to keep the pressure on, you've got to keep them out, you've got to make sure it's not a friendly place for these people to come," said Arena.

That means educating landlords in our region on what to look for when criminals come to rent, protecting our schools and children who could be recruited into gangs and reporting tips to police.

Arena also told us in his experience, it's no surprise for investigators to get calls from law enforcement in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia dealing with crimes linked to Detroit.

Wednesday night, NewsChannel 3 caught up with West Virginia State Troopers who brought in another dealer from Detroit. They said he was involved in a major heroin bust at a motel in Cabell County in early April.


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