NIAGARA FALLS - Exposing the seedy underbelly of the drug subculture in Niagara Falls has been a sobering experience for a seasoned police officer.
"Drugs destroy people's lives. They destroy families and they destroy communities," said Det. Sgt. Craig Coates, as he drove by a known crack house near River Road that was the scene of an undercover operation a few weeks ago.
"The neighbours here have nice homes and care about their area and it's all being destroyed by these individuals selling poison to our kids," said the 27-year police veteran.
On Saturday, the Niagara Regional Police crackdown on street-level drug dealers in Niagara Falls yielded its 100th arrest in 107 days after a 29-year-old man was arrested with a handful of ecstasy pills.
That brings a running total of 200 ecstasy pills taken off the streets and out of the hands of young people since the zero-tolerance crackdown began in February.
The total cache of seized drugs reads like a pharmaceutical inventory with $in Oxycodone, Ritalin, diluadid and diazepam.
Approximately 1.5 pounds of cocaine, with a street value of $ and a forest of marijuana worth $were taken off the streets as well as hashish oil, heroin and magic mushrooms.
Police also seized other tools of the trade: Guns, knives, brass knuckles, cellphones and $ in drug money.
Of the 100 people arrested, many are under the age of 18.
Some of the teenagers caught in a police sting have broken down in tears, terrified of spending a night in jail.
Others, are all too familiar with the routine, sit in stoic silence until they're released, perhaps contemplating making another score.
A number of senior citizens have also been caught in the NRP's web, including a 78-year-old man and a 61-year-old woman who turned to drugs to supplement their income.
Coates began his crusade in mid-February and he discovered 80 per cent of crimes - particularly armed robberies at convenience store and gas stations - were being committed by individuals addicted to drugs.
The drug dealers, in turn, were getting rich off the backs of the addicts.
"They're driven by greed. Everything is about money and nothing else matters," he said of the dealers.
While he realizes the crackdown may have only made a dent in the city's drug trade, Coates is confident the word is getting out thatdealers are not welcome in Niagara Falls.
Forty per cent of the dealers arrested over the past 107 days hail from St. Catharines and others came from the United States to peddle their wares.
Police have arrested dealers in everything from dilapidated flop houses to high-end luxury homes. No neighbourhood is immune.
In the River Road matter, police received several complaints from residents concerned about the suspicious activity going on inside a century home.
One resident noted 20 taxis went to the home over the course of an evening - unusual goings-on in an area known for its inns and quaint bed and breakfasts.
Many of those caught in the sting have subsequently pleaded guilty in court. While some individuals have returned to dealing drugs, a few have made attempts to turn their life around.
"I've had some thank me for putting them away before it was too late. They used the time in jail to dry out and think about what they were doing," Coates said.
Lately, he has fielded calls from concerned parents who fear their children are doing drugs.
"Parents need to take responsibility for the children. They need to know where they are, and who they're with ... before it's too late."
He reminds parents the maximum penalty for a conviction of trafficking a controlled substance is life in prison. Possession of a controlled substance could result in a jail term of up to seven years.
Coates credits the NRP street crime unit in Niagara Falls with making the initiative a success.
"These guys put 16 to 18 hour days into this project. It would not be such a success if not for their dedication to the cause."
Insp. Brian Eckhardt, divisional commander for Niagara Falls, said there has been a noticeable drop in street crimes since the crackdown began.
"The immediate impact on the streets is what I like to see. We want to make this a safe place for our residents and our 14 million visitors every year."
Arrested Saturday and charged with various drug related offences are [Name redacted], 19, of no fixed address, [Name redacted], 26, of St. Catharines, [Name redacted], 29, [Name redacted], 23, both of Niagara Falls, [Name redacted], 34, and [Name redacted], 34, both of St. Catharines.
Police vow to continue to crack down on dealers in Niagara Falls.
"Police need to be more than window dressing. We have to be more proactive in the communities we serve. This will go on," Coates added.
source mapt usa
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