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<TD vAlign=center width="100%" background=http://i1.bluelight.nu/p/10.gif bgColor=#e8e8f1>Cops offer deal to dealers 10-09-2005 15:17</TD>
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10 September 2005
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<TD =xq>Cops offer deal to dealers
By John Doherty
Newburgh – Some of the drug dealers came to City Hall alone. Others came with their moms. Some knew what was up, others had only a knot of worry in their stomachs. With the county district attorney sitting stone-faced nearby, police played them the videotape: shot after shot of 14 city dealers selling crack and heroin.
The buyers wore hidden digital video cameras that showed the dealers – mostly young, mostly black, all but one male – handing over small balloons of drugs, and taking cash; sprinkling rocks of crack onto dollar bills to be folded for safe keeping; pinching dope into cellophane cigarette pack wrappers.
"None of you are leaving here in handcuffs," Newburgh police Chief Eric Paolilli assured them. Thursday's meeting between law enforcement and street dealers was unlike any other ever held in the city.
By the end of Thursday's meeting, the dealers were matched with social workers and warned to get out of the drug game. "We know who you are, we know where you live, we even know who you hang with," Paolilli told them. "Most importantly, we know you deal drugs.'
The dealers, who range in age from 17 to 46, are being given a second chance. "Believe me, we have some officers biting their lips, who can't believe we're doing this," said Paolilli. "If it doesn't work, we'll go back to the old way." Modeled after programs in Boston, Rochester and elsewhere, the initiative unveiled yesterday is called Operation Cease Fire.
For years, Newburgh has arrested, convicted and watched as drug dealers return from prison to start the cycle all over again. "Thirty years ago when I became a prosecutor, one of the highest concerns was drug dealing in Newburgh. Thirty years later, drug dealing in Newburgh is still one of the highest concerns," Orange County District Attorney Frank Philips said yesterday.
"What we're doing is not working, despite announcements to the contrary." Operation Cease Fire could stop that cycle, officials hope. In recent months, detectives identified 60 people involved in the open-air drug trade in the Lander and First streets area.
With neighborhood leaders, school officials and local clergy, police selected 14 dealers without felony records or violent histories, drug dealers worth saving, they decided. George Frazier, the director of the nonprofit Hoops Express program in Newburgh, said the mentors who are paired with the dealers will keep a close eye on them. Bringing in the dealers' families puts additional pressure on them to get a GED, enroll in job training or do whatever is necessary to stop dealing and avoid near certain arrest.
Three of the 14 dealers didn't show up to Thursday's meeting but will likely get one more chance to get with the program. Social workers and police informed the targeted dealers of the meeting earlier this week.
Police expected word of the offer from police would move quickly through the city's grapevine. At the same time the meeting was taking place, city officers and members of the Orange County Sheriff's Office swept through the city. They made, coincidentally, arrests of 14 city residents for drug crimes. "If nothing else gets their attention," said Paolilli, "that will." </TD></TR></T></TABLE></TD></TR></T></TABLE>
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