Authorities say the arrest of a gang member whose Manchester apartment contained four guns and two pounds of hard drugs was the result of collaborative efforts between federal, state and local agencies to reduce violent crime in the Queen City.
The Sept. 1 arrest of Michael “Deuce” Francis, 34 — an alleged member of the Gangster Disciples street gang — is one of several recent efforts by city and federal law enforcement to focus on prolific and chronic offenders, according to John Farley, the top federal prosecutor in New Hampshire.
“For most residents of Manchester, these efforts should be a message of hope for the future,” said Farley in a statement. “But for those who choose to pursue a path of violence, I have a different message. We will not tolerate violent crime in our community. We will investigate you. We will prosecute you. And you will go to federal prison.”
Law enforcement officials had planned to hold a press conference Wednesday at Manchester Police Department to highlight the efforts, but it was canceled due to scheduling conflicts. The case against Francis is spelled out in filings in U.S. District Court, where he faces a charge of firearm possession by a prohibited person.
Following his arrest on a weapons possession charge, authorities obtained a warrant and searched his apartment, where they found four firearms, including a stolen Makarov 9mm pistol, a .40-caliber Springfield Armory pistol with a 16-round magazine, a SIG Sauer 9mm pistol with a 15-round magazine and a stolen Glock .40-caliber pistol.
The search also uncovered a bag with 248 grams of fentanyl, a bag with 28 grams of crack cocaine and two baggies with 450 grams of methamphetamine between them.
The FBI identifies Francis as a documented member of the Gangster Disciples street gang.
In March of this year, the CompStat 360 program was announced as part of an initiative focused on reducing violent crime and addressing public safety issues in Manchester.
Manchester police have worked to increase officer presence and community engagement in the neighborhoods that need it most, conducting over 4,000 directed patrols since the start of the initiative. Nearly 250 of these directed patrols consist of officers on foot patrols, funded by American Recovery Plan and Project Safe Neighborhoods grant funding.
“We hear the community concerns on these issues, we feel the same concerns, and we are responding,” said Police Chief Allen Aldenberg in a statement.
“There are significant ongoing efforts focusing on offenders and neighborhood safety and we will continue to address violent crime in Manchester. Anyone who thinks they can commit violence in this city should be on notice: We are putting all available resources into investigating, identifying, and arresting violent offenders.”
The Violent Crime Reduction Program, included in the city’s approved recommendations for spending ARP money, funds 13 Community Health Workers who will work with Manchester police to take over check condition calls typically handled by officers and act as a hub for addressing neighborhood-level health concerns.
It also supports the Highway Department’s effort to address environmental issues, primarily in neighborhoods that experience chronic violent crime, through things like street sweepers, increased trash collection, additional street lights and trimming overgrown vegetation, and funds park rangers to help make local parks safer and cleaner.
“The Manchester Police Department’s focus on partnership and collaboration, with both other law enforcement agencies and the community at large, is paying off,” said Mayor Joyce Craig in a statement. “This most recent arrest shows that their innovative approach to law enforcement and the programs funded through the American Rescue Plan, are making our streets safer.”
Craig’s opponents in next week’s mayoral primary election — former state Rep. and 2019 mayoral candidate Victoria Sullivan, and former alderman and school board member Rich Girard — said Wednesday’s announcement highlights the issue of crime in Manchester.
“The Manchester Police Department has a long history of partnering with local, county, state and federal agencies so I really don’t see anything new in this announcement,” said Girard in a statement. “While I’m happy he’s off the streets, based on all the hype in yesterday’s media advisory, I’d expected more about why the arrest of Michael Francis is some kind of game changer on the city’s crime scene, which it doesn’t appear to be. Instead of fluffy public relations efforts, the mayor and police leadership need to address those things that have enabled violent crime to flourish in our city.”
Girard said the “catch and release” bail law needs to be eliminated, and said police should be allowed to arrest people engaged in criminal activity at the scene of an overdose.
“Manchester needs a strong, consistent focus on addressing quality of life crimes that, when unaddressed, create the environment where violent crime flourishes, which is what we’re suffering with now,” said Girard.
Sullivan said she has been calling out Craig for two years on the crime, claiming “all we have heard from the Corner Office are carefully massaged statistics, claiming that all is well in Manchester for her own political gain.”
“I commend the brave men and women of the Manchester Police Department and the Attorney General’s Office for this indictment, but let me be clear — they need a willing partner at One City Hall Plaza,” said Sullivan in a statement. “I plan to be there come January, ready to work alongside them, helping to lead the change that our city desperately needs.”