Video footage provided by participating law enforcement agencies: Pasquotank County Sheriff's and Elizabeth City Police departments, NC Community Corrections, NC Alcohol Law Enforcement, NC State Bureau of Investigation, US Marshals and US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
At least 120 of Pasquotank County’s most wanted fugitives are no longer wanted.
Law enforcement agencies, led by the U.S. Marshals Service, swooped in and rounded them up during a two-day operation called Operation Tightrope, officials said during a morning news conference in Elizabeth City on Thursday.
Operation Tightrope resulted in the arrest of 108 fugitives and the service of 161 outstanding warrants, U.S. Marshal Scott Parker said. In addition, 12 people accused of absconding from the terms of their probation were arrested during the roundup, Parker said.
Five of those arrested were crime suspects law enforcement were particularly interested in getting behind bars. They included:
• Javona Marie Jones, 26, of the 900 block of Simpson Ditch Road. Jones is accused of felony probation violation. Albemarle District Jail officials said Thursday that she is being held in lieu of $200,000 secured bond.
• Cory Revelle, 28, of the 100 block of Renaissance Circle. Revelle is accused of discharging a firearm into occupied property, assault with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and probation violation. Jail officials said he is being held in lieu of $163,000 secured bond.
• Holly Marie Higgins, 32, of the 400 block of West Broad Street. Higgins is accused of assault inflicting serious injury, resisting arrest and probation violation. Jail officials said she is being held in lieu of $5,000 secured bond on the probation violation charge.
• Melvin Sutton, 43, of the 100 block of Kennedy Drive. Sutton is accused of felony possession of cocaine.
• Osman Martinez, 37, of the 1700 block of
Lobdell Lane. Martinez is accused of assault by strangulation.
Jail officials said they had no record of Sutton or Martinez being held at ADJ on Thursday evening.
Flanked by law enforcement officials that included Elizabeth City Police Chief Eddie Buffaloe and Pasquotank Sheriff Randy Cartwright, Parker said Operation Tightrope, the first of its kind in Pasquotank, was in response to a recent wave of violence in the area.
Buffaloe estimated there have been anywhere from seven to 10 shooting incidents in Elizabeth City since a double-homicide in the Shepard Street area on New Year’s Day.
Parker said another purpose of the roundup was to send a clear message to those on the run from the law that “they can’t hide in eastern North Carolina.”
The roundup apparently is achieving that goal.
Parker said others wanted by law enforcement but not arrested during the roundup were contacting local law enforcement agencies Thursday, saying they wanted to turn themselves in.
Operation Tightrope started approximately five weeks ago. Spurred by the increase in shooting incidents, Cartwright said law enforcement officials came up with a plan to round up those wanted for serious crimes who for one reason or another had thus far eluded arrest.
Buffaloe said officials settled on both a regional and collaborative approach to rounding up the wanted crime suspects.
Buffaloe said 148 people were targeted in the operation and that more than 100 law enforcement officials were involved. Besides the Marshal Service and the Elizabeth City police and Pasquotank Sheriff’s departments, the roundup also included officials from the N.C. Community Corrections, N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement, the State Bureau of Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The actual roundup of suspects began in the pre-dawn hours on Tuesday and was completed by Wednesday. No injuries were reported during the roundup, officials said.
Besides the wanted suspects, law enforcement officials also confiscated a number of drugs and weapons. Buffaloe declined to be specific about those seizures, citing the ongoing criminal probe.
Cartwright said the operation was successful not only because it netted illegal drugs and weapons, but because it also provided law enforcement with information it can use to make even more arrests.
Cartwright credited citizens for assisting with Operation Tightrope. “The person you were looking for is home now” is an example of the kind of phone call law enforcement officials received from citizens during the roundup.
Asked if the number of wanted crime suspects rounded up in Pasquotank had anything to do with a perception that the county is a good place to hide out, Parker said it did not.
“No sir, not to my knowledge,” he said.
Parker said the Marshals Service has an elite task force that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week with state and local law enforcement to arrest wanted crime suspects.
District Attorney Frank Parrish, who watched the news conference from the audience, said afterward that he liked the fact that so many different law enforcement agencies had worked together on Operation Tightrope.
“That’s appropriate,” Parrish said. “Most of all, this exemplifies what I’ve always believed: The value of cooperation and collaboration.”
Parrish said that, historically, when law enforcement agencies go their separate ways and get bogged down in turf protection, “we don’t get the best results.” By pooling resources, he said, “We’ve gotten excellent results.”
Parrish also said he did not remember any law enforcement operation in the area resulting in as many arrests as this week’s.
Buffaloe, in a brief statement, vowed that the teamwork that went into Operation Tightrope will continue in the future. He said law enforcement will work together as partners in serving the community, fighting crime and reducing the fear of crime in neighborhoods.
“Operation Tightrope is only the beginning of many more operations that include and will involve taking the ownership of our communities back to our constituents and ridding our streets of violent offenders,” Buffaloe said.
The chief said he believes the roundup has had a direct impact on local crimefighting efforts.
City Manager Rich Olson does too. Olson didn’t attend Thursday’s news conference, but he said afterward that the roundup took a huge bite out of the city’s crime problem. He noted that the police department’s calls for service “dropped dramatically” while the operation was under way.
Operation Tightrope is actually the second crimefighting operation the U.S. Marshals Service has participated in in the Elizabeth City area in recent years. In September 2011, the federal agency was one of numerous law enforcement agencies that participated in Operation Paladin. That campaign was focused on determining how many convicted sex offenders notify law enforcement of their new address — as they’re required to by state law — when they move.
Parker said that after the 2011 operation, he made it clear the Marshals Service would return to the area. And this week it did return, he said.
“We’re back this week, arresting these 120 individuals,” Parker said.
Cartwright urged anyone with additional information about wanted crime suspects to call the Elizabeth City Police Department at 335-4321, the Pasquotank Sheriff’s Department at 338-2191 or the local Crime Line at 335-5555. Crime Line offers rewards of up to $2,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of a crime suspect.
Contact Bill West at email@example.com