By Jay Meisel
FORT PIERCE - When gang violence rocked Fort Pierce in 2009, Fort Pierce Police Detective David Jones was given the task of stemming it.
For two years afterward, Detective Jones targeted the 13th Street gang, the one police believed responsible for much of the violence.
His investigation, which resulted in numerous arrests and the unexpected solving of a murder, was recognized this year by the Florida Gang Investigators Association.
The association named Detective Jones Gang Investigator of the Year.
"I didn't think I was going to win," Detective Jones said, adding he didn't know he was under consideration for the award.
Sgt. Dennis McWilliams, who nominated Detective Jones, said he never told him about the nomination.
He said he nominated Detective Jones because of his thorough investigation, which made the city safer.
In his nomination submitted to the association, he wrote, "This investigation has had a significant impact on the crime in Fort Pierce, specifically the crimes that were being committed by the 13th Street gang. In fact, during the first six months of 2012, the city of Fort Pierce has not had any murders in our city."
Although a murder subsequently occurred, Sgt. McWilliams said, Detective Jones' investigation has impacted the level of violence.
When the investigation began, the 13th Street gang was chosen as the target, he wrote in the nomination.
"The 13th Street gang was widely considered the most violent gang in our community and has been directly responsible for 25 murders in our community," he said.
Fort Pierce Police Chief R. Sean Baldwin asked Detective Jones to identify gang members and link their crimes together as part of an enterprise.
"Detective Jones was not only up to the task, but has since completed his investigation, produced a document that identifies over 100 gang members, arrested five of the enforcers of the gang and even solved a homicide that would have probably gone unsolved," Sgt. McWilliams said.
The murder was that of Demetrious Wells, he said.
The investigation led to the arrest of Schneider Joseph and his subsequently going to prison for 25 years.
The investigation involved hundreds of interviews of current and former gang members and Internet research, he said.
He compared probing the network of crime to dissecting an onion.
"There are a lot of layers to peel off," Sgt. McWilliams said.
The result of peeling off the layers is that principals in the gang are being prosecuted on organized crime charges, with one having pled guilty, he said.
Many of the other gang members have been sent to prison on other charges than racketeering, he said.