Sharon police are concerned that a violent drug gang from Detroit is trying to establish itself in the Shenango Valley.

“This is a very organized group,” Capt. Michael Menster said of the gang, which was recently the target of a federal probe in New Castle.

The gang’s goal is to move into a community and use violence and intimidation to shut down local drug dealers and then try to blend in, according to Menster.

Traces of the Detroit gang are already beginning to show up in the area, authorities say.

Police believe a suspect arrested on drug charges on Mesabi Street in Sharon is linked to the gang.

Montez L. Lyles was arrested on July 21 after police found 14 individually wrapped rocks of crack cocaine and a bag of marijuana in his vehicle. Lyles is originally from the Detroit area, police said, but gave a local address of 319 Mesabi.

He’s not the first person with ties to the motor city that police have run across in their investigations and the gang makes figuring out who they really are hard.

“They are brought here from Detroit. They don’t carry identification and they’re supplied with several names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth,” Menster said.

Many of these gang members are young, some only 14. They come to the area for two or three weeks and then return to Detroit, he said.

In February, New Castle police, working with federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials, charged 28 alleged crack cocaine dealers in one of the largest drug raids the city had ever seen.

The raid, named “Operation Detroit,” was the city’s way of fighting back against a drug network that had been established between New Castle and Detroit. Authorities said gangs in Detroit saw a new market for their drugs in western Pennsylvania and shuttled teens back and forth to sell

The drug network was responsible for about $2 million worth of crack cocaine deals in the city and surrounding areas.

Sharon police have been in contact with the New Castle Narcotics Bureau over the last year to discuss the strategies and tendencies of the gang, Menster said.

According to Mercer County District Attorney James Epstein, this is not the first time the region has seen the influence of drug gangs.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, when crack cocaine first came to Mercer County, drug gangs from New York and Detroit were fighting over territory, which led to a significant increase in gun violence, Epstein said.

“Fortunately,” he added, “we were able to make the climate unfavorable for them through increased police presence.”

“We want to try and get together with New Castle and Detroit (police) to identify these people and gather intelligence about them so we can focus on arresting them,” Menster said.

The important thing is to get the community to work together with police to make sure that the gang does not establish itself here, Menster said.

“The public should be very concerned if this gang gets a foothold here,” he said. “If they do, they will bring a lot of gun violence to the area.”

Police are not resting. They are actively seeking out the criminals and staying in contact with members of the communities to see if the problem becomes widespread, Epstein said.

“Police have met and dealt with this before,” he said, “and they will deal with it again.”

Trending Video