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DA Gulluni Credits New Task Force With 'Dismantling' Violent Street Gang

A new law enforcement task force in western Massachusetts is focusing on violent criminals and is touting its first success. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.  	 Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni introduced his recently form
Paul Tuthill

    A new law enforcement task force in western Massachusetts is focusing on violent criminals and is touting its first success.

    Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni introduced his recently formed Strategic Action and Focused Enforcement (SAFE) Unit and announced its first initiative had resulted in the dismantling of the Knox Street Posse – a highly violent street level gang operating out of Springfield’s Maple High-Six Corners neighborhood.

    "In the last couple years, members of this group have distinquished themselves as the most violent and brazen individuals in this region and executed unrelenting attacks on a rival group in the city of Springfield," Gulluni said.  He said the gang is reponsible for "dozens of shootings and other assaults that has resulted in serious injury and death."

    At a news conference Tuesday, Gulluni said members of the Knox Street Posse were responsible for the trafficking of guns and drugs throughout western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

   After creating the new task force consisting of local, state, and federal agencies just a few months ago, the unit decided to focus on the Knox Street Posse and in just six weeks identified and arrested key members and associates of the gang, said Gulluni.

  "We used high technology, we used various surveilance methods that over  the course of six weeks, really gave us a very detailed perspective on this group, the organization of the group. what they were involved in," Gulluni explained. "It confirmed what we already knew that this was a seriously organized group around violence and profiting off drugs and the distribution of firearms."

  The operation resulted in 15 arrests, the seizure of more than 20 firearms, 100,000 bags of heroin, 2.8 kilograms of cocaine, and $70,000 in U.S. currency.

  "The arrests of these individuals in particular given their histories -- charged and uncharged conduct -- has made a serious impact on public safety this summer in the city of Springfield and this region. There is no question about it and we are very proud of that," Gulluni said.

  He said 11 of the 15 people arrested are being held without bail pursuant to the state’s dangerousness statute – an indication of the seriousness of the charges they face and their prior criminal histories.

" I think it is appropriate to also applaud the court system," Gulluni said.  He said his office had made " sound and lawful" arguments to hold the defendants without bail.

  "Here the court system did its job in protecting our law abiding citizens by keeping these offenders off the streets," Gulluni said.

  The SAFE Unit is made up of law enforcement from the Massachusetts State Police, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), Homeland Security Investigations, the Hampden County Sherriff’s Department, the Holyoke, West Springfield, and East Longmeadow police departments, and the Massachusetts National Guard.

Kenneth Kwak, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of ATF’s Boston Field Division, said dismantling such a violent street level gang would not be possible without the resources the SAFE Unit can draw on.

"Having traveled throughout country with ATF, what I see in front of me today  is one of the most successful that we'vc had throughout the country," Kwak said.

Col. Christopher Mason, the head of the Massachusetts State Police said by focusing on “the most prolific violent offenders” the SAFE Unit is following a “sound and proven” strategy.

The role of the National Guard in the task force is to analyze data.  For several years, the Guard has assigned someone full time to the Hampden DA’s office.



Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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