Dozens arrested in drug sweep


City detectives swarmed through West Baltimore yesterday, making undercover drug purchases and arresting more than 103 people on narcotics-related charges.

The initiative was conducted by detectives in the department's Organized Crime Division, a centerpiece of Commissioner Kevin P. Clark's strategy for driving drug dealers off the streets and, as a result, reducing crime.

Since the operation began in late May, the division's 112 detectives have made 1,500 felony drug arrests and seized 52 guns citywide, said Chief Anthony J. Romano, who heads the division. The detectives are assigned specific areas of the city, focusing on areas with open-air drug markets and increased violence.

Yesterday's initiative marked the second time the division had thrown all of its resources into one area of the city during one day.

"This is an effective approach," Clark said.

Police said they hope the sweep will startle the drug dealers and disrupt their business in the Western Police District, where homicides and shootings have risen slightly this year.

By 8 a.m. yesterday, teams of undercover detectives had begun targeting heroin and cocaine "shops."

The 45 undercover buys and busts typically went like this:

About 11 a.m., an undercover officer bought drugs from two dealers at the bus stop at the busy intersection of Pennsylvania and W. North avenues. A few minutes later, a team of detectives sped up to the corner and arrested the men. The detectives recovered 10 small bags of cocaine and a gel cap of heroin, police said. The men arrested were charged with felony distribution of drugs.

Police were not expected to have yesterday's total number of arrests until late last night.

Those arrested were then taken to Western District station, where, in another phase of the initiative, detectives questioned those arrested to find out whether they had information about recent violence. Two prosecutors stood ready to offer deals and answer questions. "If we get one person who helps us clear a homicide, then it's worth it," said Detective Darrell Townsend after he finished questioning a suspected drug dealer about a recent killing.

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