Arrests made, stolen guns recovered as part of Operation Save Our Seniors

Saturday, Mar. 25, 2023–11:32 a.m.

-News Release-

Operation Save Our Seniors (S.O.S.) is an ongoing community impact plan that has the well-being of our senior community at its heart.

The steep rise in gun crime and theft of guns from unlocked vehicles has spurred our police departments to think differently about how we investigate and deal with crime.

The comprehensive plan has been in action for several weeks and included meetings with community leaders of South Rome, residents, and police to ensure open dialogue and meaningful goals.

Operation S.O.S. is a response to the distress call from the senior community of South Rome who were pinned down by drug activity and violent crime. Stories of an open-air drug market were not exaggerated. Police intelligence found the streets jammed with people on weekends and afternoons who were using drugs and soliciting illicit activity. A closer examination of the community uncovered homes peppered with bullet holes, windows boarded up, and drug operations that had taken over abandoned homes and vehicles.

The volume of stolen guns found in South Rome, and the weight of drugs found during traffic stops by police warranted action by the unique task force. Proactive police work in the days leading up to the operation Friday found that much of the problem was from people coming in from outside South Rome to patronize drug dealers and engage in violent crime.

The vibe from the open-air drug market was unfazed by police presence. On numerous occasions, the activity would briefly stop until patrols passed by but then return to normal after police turned the corner. Drug dealers brazenly walked the street and pointed guns at residents. The senior community of South Rome was held hostage in their homes for fear of being assaulted or killed by stray gunplay.

The investigation revealed drive-through drug sales in some locations, with dealers working from parked cars, or patrons looking for drugs at locations better known as “Pop’s House” and “The Green House.”

The formula for the plan being used by the multi-jurisdiction task force is modeled after one used in a Miami community known as Liberty City. The former chief of police there, Dan Flynn, is an advisor for the Northwest Georgia Elder Abuse Taskforce and he has spoken often with police and community leaders about Operation S.O.S.

The goal of the operation Friday is to pull the criminal thorn from South Rome so the senior community can feel safe going outside to check their mail, water their flowers or walk to church. The next phase will rely on community leaders to take the helm and steer the restoration of South Rome.

The culmination of police activity since January for Operation Save Our Seniors (S.O.S.) includes:  

  • Seven search warrants (five houses and two cars) on Friday
  • 39 total arrests, with 18 on Friday
  • 40 guns, with 18 guns recovered on Friday

The operation Friday was a team effort by Floyd County and Rome Police, the local team from the Drug Enforcement Administration office for High-Intensity Drug Area, and Rome-Floyd Metro Task Force.

The following agencies also played an integral role in the success of this operation:  

  • Northwest Georgia Elder Abuse Task Force
  • Floyd 911
  • Rome-Floyd SWAT
  • Floyd County Sheriff’s Office·
  • G.I.S.A.C. (Georgia Information Sharing Analysis Center)
  • U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms
  • Bartow County SWAT
  • Cartersville Police SWAT
  • Georgia State Patrol SWAT, Aviation and Patrol

Residents reminded to secure guns and other valuables

Guns recovered from Operation Save Our Seniors illustrate the continuing need for vehicle owners to always lock up and remove valuables from the inside.

Police from both Floyd County and the City of Rome have been pleading with audiences for months about the need for prevention and ensuring vehicles are locked before drivers walk away. At least five of the 25 guns recovered on Friday were confirmed as stolen. Others had serial numbers removed or traces have not been completed.

“Simply parking your vehicle at your house does not ensure the security you think,” said Debbie Burnett, assistant chief of the Rome Police Department,.

Keeping accurate records of serial numbers goes a long way in helping police return guns to victims.

Investigators working entering auto cases consistently found that guns were ending up in South Rome, said Jeff Jones, commander of the Floyd County PD investigation unit. This spurred the action by the police to be more proactive with traffic stops and operations like the one on Friday.

“Stolen guns are arming the street violence that police see in our communities every day,” Jones said.

The Floyd County Police Department reports that one in three vehicles has a gun stolen from inside. Thieves who go into a neighborhood and break into at least three vehicles are guaranteed to walk away with at least one firearm, Jones said.

“Our senior community in South Rome is afraid to go out and enjoy the lives they have built for themselves,” Burnett said.”Operation S.O.S. will give us a clean slate to rebuild the South Rome community for our seniors and their personal investment in the area.”

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