SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Just a month into the new year, Sikeston's police chief calls his street crimes problem "non-existent"
But just a year ago, he says a group of young men with guns had the crime market cornered. They were connected to drug sales, assaults, and robberies.
And Chief Drew Juden says, if you wanted protection from the gang calling itself the Brick Squad Monopoly, you had to pay for it.
Then, a robbery and shooting in June of 2013 left a 35 year old man paralyzed, and the effort to bring down the Brick Squad got real.
"I heard something, like in my laundry room".
June 10, 2013, 1 a.m.
"There was three guys coming through my back door," said Blackmon.
Jonathon Blackmon's life changes in a split second.
"While I was tussling with him, that's when one of them shot me in the back", he said. "I heard the gunshot but I didn't really feel it. I knew I was shot because I fell and I was just laying there and couldn't move."
And authorities say, the three suspects in Blackmon's case had more in common than just this crime. The belonged to what investigators call Sikeston's latest homegrown street gang.
"The Brick Squad Monopoly or the Brick Squad Mafia, they went by both names", Sikeston DPS Chief Drew Juden said. "And these individuals were perpetrating a number of street crimes and robberies, and charging people for protection. There were several activities going on that all centered around them."
Police believe Corey Turner, Junior started the gang with dozens of his friends.
When Turner, Jr. went to federal prison along with his father and several others in 2011, investigators say the remaining Monopoly members kept the gang together.
In the spring of 2013, police began seeing an escalation in violent street crimes: home invasions, assaults, gunfire, the attack that paralyzed Jonathon Blackmon.
"I mean is this it for me, am I going to die?" Blackmon recalls thinking. "You know, a lot of things go through your head when something like that happens to you."
Blackmon's girlfriend Jalishia Williamson says her own first cousin is one of the three accused of shooting the father of five.
"Brick Squad was getting so ridiculous to the point that during the day, they're just walking around during the day with their guns out shooting because they didn't care", she said. "Because they felt like they were untouchable."
But, with witnesses, even victims unwilling to cooperate, investigators had to find a new approach.
It came in the form of a little known state statute on criminal street gangs.
"We felt like this would fit into our program and fit into what we were seeing out on the streets", Juden said.
As Detective Flint Dees explains, Missouri's street gang statute defines a gang as any group of three or more people associated with crimes that include murder, assault and robbery.
But, how do you tie all these people to dozens of cases over the course of three years? As Dees shows, you simply connect the dots.
"This board represents our 30 indicted gang members on the left, on the top are 70 cases in which each one is involved in some manner", Detective Flint Dees explains, pointing to the large diagram in front.
On the far left, pictures of 30 now indicted men all accused of being part of the Brick Squad.
Across the top, you see descriptions of 70 crimes from 2010-2013. Lines running down and across connect with dots at the point where a suspect and crime have some kind of connection.
"Pick a person on the left", he explains. "You go over to where their dot is on the line, go up to the case."
It doesn't mean that all these people allegedly committed that crime, but they're tied to it in some way, right? I asked.
"They were listed in that report in some manner", he said.
Investigators actually presented the chart to a grand jury, which indicted the suspects not only on the individual crimes, but also on that felony gang charge.
The Brick Squad came tumbling down on August 2.
Along with dozens of arrests, numerous weapons came off the streets.
"We saw an immediate drop in our shots fired calls", Chief Juden said after that. "We saw an immediate drop in our violent activity, our street activity, our street robberies.
Back at the hospital where I met Jonathon Blackmon, Jalishia Williamson says she won't call her hometown safe but says the craziness has calmed down.
"Ever since the arrests, like it spooked them to the point where they're probably not going to go out robbing and stuff like that anymore", she said.
Jonathon Blackmon, coping with yet another hospital stay following the shooting, reflects calmly on the pursuit of justice.
"You know, I feel like they took my life away from me. So, whatever happens to them? You know, they deserve it", Blackmon said.