A total of 14 alleged drug dealers targeted by undercover officers in a 10-month operation are now in police custody, officials announced late Thursday afternoon.
A joint investigation between local and county law enforcement dubbed Operation: Clean Slate targeted street-level drug dealers operating primarily in the third and fourth precincts in Yonkers. The undercover operation began 10 months ago based on intelligence that was gathered and complaints from area residents.
During the investigation, Yonkers Police Commissioner Charles Gardner said undercover officers made more than 100 purchases of illegal drugs, including opioid pills, crack cocaine, heroin and powdered cocaine.
Investigators said that they targeted 22 alleged dealers, and that seven remain at large, though one of the suspects may have died. Another suspect fled the state, but they are working with authorities to apprehend him. Gardner said that they are actively pursuing the remaining suspects and he expects to have them in custody shortly.
“There are two takeaways from today’s press conference,” the commissioner said. “One, if you have a substance abuse problem, there are resources available. Two, if you choose to deal drugs, we’re going to find you, we’re going to prosecute you vigorously, and your face is going to wind up on one of our boards.”
Each of the arrested drug dealers has been charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal possession of a controlled substance. If convicted, they will face up to 25 years in state prison.
Gardner noted that the 22 suspects have a total of 393 arrests, including multiple felonies, for offenses that include robbery, burglary and various weapons charges. One suspect who remains on the run has nine felony arrests and 15 total arrests on his record, to which, the commissioner said he should “turn himself in.”
“Here in Yonkers, we are not immune to the opioid crisis facing the nation. We take a three-pronged approach: education, assistance and enforcement,” he added. “Operation: Clean Slate is part of the enforcement prong.”
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano echoed that thought, noting that “it’s something we experience each and every day.”
“Each and every one of us know far too many people who have overdosed or died as a result of opioid abuse. That’s how bad this has gotten,” he said. “It’s something we experience each and every day. We see it in our families, in our communities and we see it up close.
“We have to be proactive, we have to be tough and we have to go out there and protect our loved ones. This is a real crisis and I’m glad to see that the men and women in blue and those who are out there doing the investigations for us and putting their lives in danger are saving lives each and every day. If they save one life, this was all worth it.”
Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr. added, “Making our county a safer place starts with cleaning up the streets. This series of drug-related arrests in Yonkers is an important step. Many of these defendants have prior felony charges beyond the scope of drugs. The sale of illegal drugs and the culture surrounding it ruins neighborhoods, increases crime and takes lives.”
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