Seattle narcotics detectives and patrol officers Saturday arrested 30 suspects in Belltown and in north Seattle, in a suspected drug ring they say has been operating for months.
The suspects are believed to be members of an organized narcotics organization with ties to Honduran Drug Rings in other cities, including San Francisco, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., and Denver.
Honduras lured by ringleaders to the U.S. with the promise of easy money.
Officers believe the ringleaders organized the drug dealers into a tight-knit and efficient group of sellers on the streets of Seattle. They are provided with a place to live and their daily activities are closely monitored.
"The dismantling and
disruption of this 50- plus army of street dealers should give
Belltown residents some relief as we go into Spring season," said West Precinct Commander Steve Brown.
Detectives say the crack cocaine they sell is stored in their mouths so that a dealer can swallow it if approached by the police. They also believe the drug dealers don't rat on their bosses, since the ringleaders know where their families live back home.
Police say large groups of these street dealers typically swarm an urban high narcotics trafficking area and drive out the regular street dealers. Once these groups are established in a city, their street dealing enterprise is very difficult to eradicate.
The drug dealing begain in a park, last fall, near the west side of Queen Anne.
In November 2008, the Seattle Police Department received an increase in complaints of narcotics trafficking in Kinnear Park.
After investigating, officers discovered narcotics activity within the park had increased dramatically. Most of the dealers who were arrested in undercover narcotics transactions were discovered to be Honduran males who had recently entered the United States.
Police efforts to discourage drug sales in Kinnear Park were successful and the complaints decreased.
In January 2009, the department's Anti-Crime Team noticed a sharp decrease in drug sales in Kinnear Park coincided with a sharp increase in street drug trafficking in Belltown. By the end of February 2009, the regular Belltown drug traffickers were no longer seen in that neighborhood. They appeared to have been replaced by a large group of young Hispanic men selling drugs in Belltown.
When the dealers were contacted by the police, the majority of them stated that they were from Honduras. Officers noticed they were all selling the same product: crack cocaine packaged in a similar manner.
Last month, Seattle police bicycle officers and narcotics detectives began conducting undercover operations in Belltown. Officers purchased crack cocaine from the suspected drug dealers but didn't arrest them. It was necessary to conduct this type of narcotics operation and delay arrests until as many members of this group as possible could be identified. The group of 52 males included four juveniles.
All of the suspects were taken into custody without incident. The adults were booked into King County Jail for Investigation of Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act. Each case involved a direct hand-to-hand exchange of money for a small amount of crack cocaine. Three juveniles were booked into the Youth Service Center. The investigation continues as officers track down the remaining suspects.