Pubdate: Thu, 11 Dec 2003
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2003 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Derek Simmonsen, staff writer


FORT PIERCE -- A Weed & Seed operation last week netted 19 arrests and
could be a model for how the task force aims to tackle drug activity
in the city.

Police raided an Avenue G apartment on Dec. 3 that was suspected of
housing drug dealers. They then turned around and sold drugs
undercover in the parking lot, catching people suspected of coming to
the home to buy narcotics.

"If you look at it as economics, it's basically supply and demand,"
said Sgt. Don Christman, head of the Fort Pierce Police's crime
suppression unit. "A lot of what we do is monitor the drug areas and
try to shut down the specific drug spots."

The crime suppression unit works as part of the Weed & Seed Task
Force, a 30-person team that includes members of the St. Lucie County
Sheriff's Office, as well as federal agencies like the FBI. The task
force formed Oct. 29 and has made hundreds of arrests so far, records

The initial enforcement wave of the operation was designed to target
drug and crime "hot spots" in the city. Now police are focusing on
more complex tasks, such as gathering intelligence on drug dealing
from homes in the city in the hopes of tackling mid-level drug dealers.

On Nov. 30, a detective received a tip about crack cocaine being dealt
out of a house on Avenue G, according to a police report. Several more
tips came in over the next few days and on Dec. 3, detectives wrote up
a search warrant for the apartment, at 807 Avenue G.

At about 5 p.m., the crime suppression unit showed up at the home with
the warrant. They arrested one resident, Nicholas Dobson, 24, on drug
charges, as well as Linda Kelley Butler, 38, of Fort Pierce, who was
accused of carrying a bag with drugs inside near the apartment, the
report states.

Two cigar tubes with crack cocaine rocks inside were recovered, in
addition to other tubes that held remnants of cocaine, the report
states. Police then turned around and set up a reverse buy operation,
in which they tried to sell drugs to people in a parking lot near the

They ended up arresting 17 people, mostly on drug charges, who were
suspected of trying to buy crack cocaine from three undercover
detectives, Christman said. The detectives were wired for sound, so
the remaining officers could monitor the sales and move in after a
deal had been made.

"This kind of developed real fast for us," Christman said. "We want to
attack it from both ends. Nail the dealers and get the people who are
enabling the dealers by buying it."

Sheriff Ken Mascara said the operation was exactly the kind of work
the task force will be doing more of. The team will continue to
operate into the new year, he said.

"We don't want to just affect the sale of the drugs, but we want to
affect the person coming to buy them," Mascara said. "We've been
really pleased with the results and the effects."

A hotline has been set up by the Weed & Seed program for people to
give anonymous information on crimes, specifically those involving
guns. Callers can call (772) 464-2486 to give information or to turn
in a gun.
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