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The Ave Getting “Too Hot” For Pot Dealers

It’s too hot to be dealing on The Ave. Those words were overheard by undercover narcotics detectives during a sweep of drug dealers in the University District last week.

The sweep was the culmination of a six month operation to identify the most prolific drug dealers on Univeristy Way NE, commonly referred to as The Ave. The operation was born out of a host of community complaints that street level drug dealing was eroding of the quality of life of U-District residents, students and merchants.

During the course of the operation, undercover personnel sought out and purchased drugs. Buyers were looking for ‘hard’ drugs, like crystal meth, cocaine and heroin. It quickly became apparent that dealers were mostly selling marijuana. Small quantities of cocaine and methamphetamine and a handgun were also purchased.

Turns out that marijuana dealers actually accounted for the majority of the problem. In the spirit of I-502, Seattle Police coordinated with the King County Prosecutor’s Office to forge ahead with an innovative approach to equitably deal with those responsible.

Instead of looking at criminal charges, dealers were told to cease and desist. They received a DMI inspired letter explaining the trouble they’d be in – full prosecution for all charged crimes – if they were caught engaging in any criminal activity on The Ave.

“Taking the admonishment approach may allow for these marijuana cases to be more favorably received in Superior Court,” said Narcotics Lieutenant Mike Kebba. “The offender will have been shown to have been warned about marijuana sales, and that they still returned, despite our attempt at gaining their cooperation. The admonishment letter is reasonable because we are not restricting their freedom to go anywhere. SPD will just be requiring them to comply with the law while in public places and refrain from drug dealing. This respects due process rights and does not circumvent the courts. This admonishment will hold them accountable no matter where they are in Seattle, not just the University District. This way we will not be simply displacing the problem elsewhere.”   

The investigation yielded a total of 24 cases – 18 of which involved the sale of marijuana. Of the 24 suspects, 15 are convicted felons.

To date, 15 dealers have been accounted for. Six were booked into King County Jail – two of which possessed a total of 3.3 grams of methamphetamine. Three are already in jail for various other offenses. Six received admonishment letters and released. Criteria for booking as opposed to releasing included the prior sale of ‘hard’ drugs or a violent criminal history.

A number of suspects possessed marijuana collectively totaling 36.8 grams of marijuana. The marijuana was returned to each individual owner because the amount possessed is legally allowed. All marijuana exclusive dealers were read and given a copy of the Admonishment letter.

Detectives also served the marijuana exclusive dealers already in custody with a copy of this letter.

In time all of the remaining suspects will be located, arrested and/or served an admonishment letter.

Drug Traffic Loitering, recently in the news due to Washington State Supreme Court ruling, was not part of the enforcement strategy.