Just in time for the holidays, Seattle Police and King County Sheriff’s Office have wrapped up more than 30 drug dealers and suspected gang members following a months-long undercover operation around Westlake.
“This operation was about helping downtown businesses and their customers as well as Metro Employees and transit riders downtown,” says Sgt Thomas Flanagan from the KCSO’s Metro Police Unit.
In September, members of SPD’s Gang Unit, Narcotics, West Precinct Bikes Anti-Crime Teams and deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office’s patrol and Metro Units began Operation Happy Holidays after receiving numerous reports of drug dealing and gang activity near the 3rd Ave corridor. For months, police documented hand-to-hand drug deals and purchased crack cocaine, powder cocaine, pills, and marijuana in the downtown core and developed cases against 40 people. This week, police began making arrests.
“We were specifically targeting gang members and dealers in this operation,” says SPD Gang Unit Sergeant Steve Jandoc, “we didn’t go after addicts.”
The months long investigation—which also led to police to recover a handgun and evidence of crack cocaine manufacturing at a Georgetown motel—was complicated by savvy street dealers, who have taken advantage of recent changes to marijuana laws.
“Dealers will sell marijuana,” Sgt. Jandoc says, “but they like to get to know their customers before they’ll sell other drugs.”
Nevertheless, undercover officers were able to buy crack, ecstasy and other drugs from dealers, and SPD and the KCSO have since taken 31suspects into custody.
Jandoc says the suspects arrested in the operation were not eligible for entry into the LEAD harm reduction program—which police can use to connect arrestees with treatment services—due to their lengthy criminal histories. Seventeen of the suspects have three prior felony convictions, four have nine prior felony convictions, and one suspect has 12 prior felony convictions.
SPD and the KCSO are now working with King County prosecutors to file felony charges against suspects arrested in the operation.
“What started as a request for assistance to our Gang Unit by my Juvenile Hotspot squad that works Westlake Park and the Third Avenue corridor, led to the development of the operation,” said West Precinct Captain Jim Dermody. “We appreciate the ongoing partnership with Metro Transit Police and all of our partners, including the Washington State Department of Corrections, King County Prosecutors Office, DEA, FBI, and the ATF. “