The Seattle Times has a great report of a drug sweep that happened yesterday afternoon called “Operation Roll the Rock.” The operation began three months ago when undercover officers began slowly making cases against 27 crack-cocaine dealers that were noted to be frequently in the area.
When I first moved to the neighborhood, I was so naive about drugs and drug use that I had to have our community police officer, Lt. Fowler explain to me how to spot different drugs and how to know if I was watching a drug deal. After living in the neighborhood for almost a year, I can safely say that I know the difference between crack and cocaine and can spot drug deals from almost a block away.
As a resident who lives above one of the most difficult drug streets in Pioneer Square, it got to the point where I was recognizing the same faces selling drugs and smoking crack. They would hide in the entryway to the Chief Seattle Club or right around the corner from the Lazarus, and sometimes in a huddle right in front of our doorway so that we had to ask them to move to even get into our apartment.
We’ve had many conversations with the police about the problem and got to the point where we recognized the voices of the 911 operators. I was invited to attend the operations meeting with the task force for “Operation Roll the Rock” and was impressed at the dedication of the officers in getting a handle on the open air drug problem on 2nd Ave.
One of the things about this operation that I was particularly impressed with is that they decided to do these arrests a little differently than normal. Lt. Mike Kebba of the department’s narcotics section, said that there was an individual on the list that would flip on his dealer every time he was arrested. In return, he’d be right back out on the street, selling, buying, and using again. This time, with the 27 users/dealers identified, they decided not to allow it and to get these guys off of the street.
The city’s press release stated that “the dealers mostly live outside the area and they flock to Pioneer Square to sell and take advantage of those who can’t say no.” While I think that that is often true, I noted that almost half of the targeted individual’s last known addresses were from a few shelters in Pioneer Square. I contacted the police department, who said that after they finish the arrests, that they will get me more information on what neighborhoods these individuals are indeed coming from.
As was mentioned in the Seattle Times report, “there is a concentration of social-service providers in Pioneer Square…[and Lt. Kebba] is offended that dealers prey on people struggling with addictions, throwing temptation in their faces where they’re seeking help.” It is important to make sure that these drug dealers are made as unwelcome as possible, both on the street, and in the shelters.
“With the recent arrest we are trying to make Pioneer Square appear less attractive to drug dealers and users. We are trying to send the message loud and clear that Seattle street corners are not an open market. We have many active investigations and anticipate there will be more arrests”, said Lt. Chris Fowler, West Precinct Operations.
I know that it will change the perception of safety when the loitering on 2nd gets better and when the neighborhood is able to take back the street. Residents comment that they would feel safer if they saw more police presence on the street, but in this example of undercover work and arrests, the actions of the police are actually making the neighborhood safer.
As of last night at 10pm, SPD reported that 15 had already been arrested and that detectives would spend the next day or so rounding up the rest of the individuals on the list. This is a huge win for the police department, and an even bigger win for the neighborhood.
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