New Bedford residents who delighted in the federal sweep of Latin King gang members in the city's Near North End recently have every reason in the world to be cynical after learning that four of those arrested as part of Operation Throne Down are back on the streets already.

The Boston Herald says in announcing the raids on properties on Sawyer Street, Tallman Street and North Front Street earlier this month "U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said the Latin Kings fostered a 'palpable climate of fear' in New Bedford through repeated leniency in releases by district court judges." New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Bristol County District Attorney John Quinn were frequent critics of the revolving door that allowed these offenders to remain on the streets.

At least two of those released have been accused of violent beatings. Another is alleged to have supplied gang members with guns. Also released, according to the Herald, was Robert Avitabile, "the landlord of the gang’s three 'trap houses' who feds say accepted drugs and prostitutes in addition to threatening a non-Latin Kings tenant in June."

“We are aware of the release of Latin King members and it is disappointing,” said the New Bedford Police Department in a statement on Christmas Eve. “We remain vigilant in our efforts to always ensure the safety of our city and its residents.”

Nearly two dozen other gang members remain in custody pending court appearances in February.

New Bedford residents were led to believe that all of the gang members and associates rounded up in this raid would remain in federal custody pending their trials. The release of even some of them feeds a sense of hopelessness and cynicism amongst those who have been victimized by the gangs and have been forced to live with their violent reign of terror within their neighborhoods.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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