Raid lands huge cocaine seizure

The Baltimore Sun

A raid on a Southwest Baltimore home early yesterday morning resulted in the biggest cocaine seizure in the Baltimore Police Department's history - more than 90 pounds of the drug, valued between $2 million and $3 million, officials said.

Police said an individual was taken into custody, but his identity was being withheld as the investigation continues. Police Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III said authorities believe the person was acting as a wholesaler and that the drug likely was destined to be sold throughout the region.

"These [drugs], wherever they were destined, whether Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore or East or West Baltimore, they are affecting our communities," Bealefeld said at a news conference. "Forty-one kilos of cocaine will not reach the streets of our city. All of us can take some comfort in that."

The raid was carried out about 2 a.m., and a source said it took place in the city's Rosemont community, near Gwynns Falls Park. Bealefeld said the investigation, conducted exclusively by the Baltimore police's elite Violent Crimes Impact Division, came together in a relatively short time.

About $11,000 in cash was recovered along with the drugs; no weapons were found. Police are consulting with federal authorities to determine the next steps in the investigation.

Officials said the largest cocaine seizure previously made by city police was 60 pounds in 2006. Yesterday's take was not a record for drugs found in Baltimore, however; federal agents seized more than a ton of cocaine, worth $25 million, from an East Baltimore warehouse in 1997. Five years earlier, agents found 1,000 pounds hidden in 55-gallon drums of glycerin at the Dundalk Marine Terminal.

Still, officials said the seizure shows that while police have recently emphasized curtailing gun crimes and gun offenders, they continue to aggressively investigate drug trafficking.

A recent report by the U.S. Department of Justice described cocaine trafficking as the leading drug threat to the United States. Availability decreased in many areas during the first half of 2007 and remained below 2005 and 2006 levels in many drug markets through mid-2008. Prolonged shortages occurred in many markets, according to the report.

The Mid-Atlantic region is listed among those regions that have continued to experience decreased availability. Cocaine is considered to account for about half of the "drug threat" in the region, with heroin accounting for about 25 percent.

"Cocaine is presently one of the most abused drugs in the Baltimore metropolitan area," Bealefeld said. "This seizure is important on many levels in that it gets right to the root of some of the city's major crime problems and takes a considerable amount of drugs off our streets."

Towson University student Daniel Gross contributed to this article.

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Read more about the drug bust at baltimoresun.com/crime

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