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Belltown Drug Ring Smashed By Seattle PD

Date:  April 18, 2009

SEATTLE – Seattle Police West Precinct officers and Narcotics detectives arrested 30 suspects today in Belltown and in North Seattle.  These suspects are believed to be members of an organized narcotics organization that has been operating in the Belltown neighborhood for the past several months.

Honduran Drug Rings in Other Cities

Since the early 1990s, well-organized street dealers from Honduras have infiltrated San Francisco, Portland, Denver, and Vancouver BC, and flooded these cities with high quality crack cocaine.  The majority of the street dealers are poor people from Honduras who have been lured by the ringleaders from their country to the United States with the promise of easy money.  Once they arrive, the ringleaders organize these people into a tight-knit and efficient group of street dealers.  They are provided with a place to live and their daily activities are closely monitored.  The crack cocaine they sell is stored in their mouths so that the dealer can swallow it if approached by the police.  They don’t inform on one another since the ringleaders know where their families live back home.  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.

Honduran Drug Ring in Seattle

In November 2008, the Seattle Police Department received an increase in complaints of narcotics trafficking in Kinnear Park.  West Precinct Community Police Team and Anti-Crime Team officers investigated the complaints.  They discovered the 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, West Precinct Anti-Crime Team officers noticed that the 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  They appeared to have been replaced by a large group of young Hispanic males selling drugs in Belltown.  When these males were contacted by the police, the majority of them stated that they were from Honduras.  Officers noticed that all of the males were selling the same product: crack cocaine packaged in a similar manner.  Based on the officer’s observations and consultation with federal authorities, officers believed they were witnessing a coordinated effort by a group of Honduran males to take over the drug trade in Belltown.

Beginning in March 2009, the West Precinct Anti-Crime Team, West Precinct bicycle officers and Seattle Police Narcotics detectives began conducting a coordinated narcotics operation in Belltown.  Undercover officers purchased crack cocaine from the suspected drug dealers but didn’t arrest them.  It was necessary to conduct this type of narcotics operation as opposed to a traditional buy/bust operation because officers believed they were dealing with an organized entity.  A traditional buy/bust operation where suspects are arrested one at a time at the time of the sale would allow the organization to strategize and change tactics, making it much more difficult to successfully dismantle the drug ring.  During this particular operation, officers focused their efforts on buying drugs from the dealers and delayed arrests until as many members of this group could be identified.  The group of 52 males included four juveniles.

“West Precinct Commander Steve Brown said the dismantling and disruption of this fifty plus army of street dealers should give Belltown residents some relief as we go into Spring season.”

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.