Sunday, January 12, 2003

Police take new tack on drug arrests

Multiple buys multiply arrests

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cincinnati police who work in the city's most violent neighborhood are trying something different to combat the drug trade.

Often, all the District 1 Violent Crime Squad has to do to catch drug dealers in Over-the-Rhine is drive around, spot drug deals and jump out of their undercover minivan to make arrests. But those "jump outs" often result in misdemeanor cases, suspects holding small amounts of marijuana. And they scatter other dealers and sellers, Sgt. Brian Meyer said - killing, at least for a while, the officers' chances of making more arrests.

"You stop and get one guy," he said, "and the others go in, hide their drugs or whatever. If we just do a jump out, then you kind of limit your investigative capacity." Sgt. Meyer and his squad decided to do a longer-term investigation, sending an undercover officer to buy drugs, in some cases repeatedly from the same sellers. They went to the grand jury and got indictments, then started rounding up their 10 accused dealers Friday.

In less than two hours Friday afternoon, they picked up six and were looking for the other four. All were charged with selling drugs, mostly crack. One was accused of selling to the officers three times. Two of them already were in jail on other charges.

Lt. Steve Wilger, District 1 investigative supervisor, said the key is a good mix of both techniques.

"Sometimes when you see the same people, you have to come up with something different," he said.

Over-the-Rhine led the city last year in homicides, with 11 of the 65 killings. It led, too, in other serious offenses such as aggravated assault, burglary, rape and robbery with firearms. That number was 200, compared with the next highest, the West End, with 88.

The District 1 squad was part of the final week of the 2002 Robbery Task Force, which put about 65 officers on 12-hour shifts Tuesday through Friday.

Some of the officers spent a lot of time in the West End, the site of the city's two homicides this year and where community organizers want to hire private security guards to help patrol their streets.


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