CHARLESTON W.Va. — Federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, victim advocates and others who work in the criminal justice arena were honored at the Robert C. Byrd United States Courthouse in downtown Charleston on Thursday.

Mike Stuart, the United States Attorney of the Southern District of West Virginia recognized their services at the 2018 Law Enforcement & Victim Assistance Awards.

“It’s a real honor of mine to be able to honor the folks that have worked so hard,” Stuart said. “This is probably one of the most important things I get to do and one of the most satisfying things we get to do.”

“This is that one day we bring everything together. My local, state and federal partners. We thank them for all the work they have done. But there’s really not enough time to thank them appropriately.”

The award lists were divided into two categories, Victim Assistance and Law Enforcement.

Included in the Victim Assistance awards were the YWCA Charleston and West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services receiving the Crime Victim Service Award, the Sisters of St. Joseph receiving the Allied Professional Award, SSA Jennifer Waterfield of the FBI, SA Cedric Jefferson and Victim Specialist Amy Graham receiving the Federal Service Award, and Angie Conn receiving the Special Courage Award.

“Our goal has been, and worked on with a sense of urgency every day, to make these streets safer,” Stuart said at the ceremony. “We couldn’t do it without our law enforcement partners and those folks in the community that work with victims, the victims’ rights advocates.”

Stuart handed out special challenge coins to all award winners. The coins are traditionally traded among law enforcement professionals around the country to honor work done in the field.

Among those receiving those coins and awards in Law Enforcement were the West Virginia Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinators for Outstanding Community Partner, the case of United States v. Timothy Sean Coogle for Outstanding Project Safe Childhood Investigation, the case of United States v. Michael Blankenship for Outstanding White Collar Fraud Investigation, the case of United States v. Phyllis Doty for Outstanding Public Corruption Investigation, and the case of United State v. Velarian Carter, et al., Operation Saigon Sunset and “Broba Fett” OCDETF Investigation for Outstanding Drug & Violent Crime Investigation.

Being awarded the 2018 Law Enforcement Agency of the Year was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, whose common goal is to go out, target and aid in the prosecution of the most violent individuals.

“We’re extremely proud,” Adam Black, Resident Agent in Charge of the Charleston Field Office of the ATF, said. “I’m extremely proud of my office, the agents that work for me, the agents that work in the Southern District of West Virginia, and the partnerships that we have with the U.S. Attorney’s office, local partners, local agencies and state police.”

“The agents that work for me, work tirelessly, day in and day out. Long nights, long prep for trials. They are always out with task force. They are out where the public doesn’t necessarily see us out.”

Recognized for 2018 Task Force of the Year was the Drug and Violent Crime Task Force West, for their work to eliminate drug trafficking organizations in the Greater Huntington area.

“It’s a great honor to accept the award on behalf of the task force,” Michael Oglesby, Task Force Commander and 1st Sergeant for the West Virginia State Police, said. “The task force is something I am very proud to be a part of.”

“We stood this task force up with the intent purpose of doing something positive for the community and the Southern District of West Virginia, the Charleson and Huntington area. This case that we accepted the award for today is basically for all the effort put in by the men and women that belong to the task force and are supportive of the task force.”

Oglesby and task force were honored for their takedown of the Peterson drug trafficking organization in Huntington. He stated that since the task force took down the organization, drug overdoses per month in Huntington have fallen from around 150 to 23.

“These drug trafficking organizations smother a community,” Oglesby said. “All of the resources and programs that go into a community are basically hampered because of the overwhelming major drug trafficking that occurs. Law enforcement agencies go in and they surgically remove those agencies from the community. It allows these programs to flourish. It allows people to get a foothold on their community.”

“The numbers in Huntington haven’t increased because I believe the programs that were involved have given the community the ability to respond to the overwhelming drug problem. That’s what drug tasks forces are really good at. They are identifying problems, going after those problems and eradicating those problems so the community can catch a break.”