By Joan Murray

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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Federal authorities have charged more than a dozen people with operating a drug racketeering conspiracy at a Miami housing complex long plagued by violence and gangs.

Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said at a news conference Wednesday that some of the 14 suspects have been involved in the enterprise since 2000, when many were only juveniles.

The group was charged under a federal racketeering law that carries a potential life prison sentence.

Greenberg says the suspects were dealing drugs at the South Gwen Cherry Housing Complex and also committing murders, robberies and assaults. Greenberg says the men used violence and threats to take over rival drug dealers’ territory.

Director of the Miami-Dade Police Dept., Juan Perez, said the arrests should put a dent in violence and crime.

“Immediately, there’s gonna be a calm out there in the community, and certainly amongst the individuals that’re involved that maybe we missed during the process, they’re gonna lay low and all that,” Dir. Perez said. “So that is now the opportunity for our uniformed community policing personnel to get into those neighborhoods, go door-to-door, which is what the city of Miami’s gonna do, and really re-establish a connection with the community in a sense that, ‘Hey, we’re here and we’re staying here.’ ‘Cause that’s the most important thing.”

The case is part of a collaboration between federal and local investigators to dismantle criminal networks in neighborhoods throughout South Florida.

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