By KEVIN CHIRI
Slidell news bureau
SLIDELL — The large-scale drug bust that occurred in Slidell this past week will have far reaching ramifications here on several fronts, law enforcement leaders said at a press conference to announce the operation.
With 30 arrests made on Friday in Slidell, involving what was called “mid-level to upper-level drug dealers,” city residents will see the effects of those arrests in several ways.
“There is real potential for violence in other ways from these kind of individuals,” Slidell Chief Randy Smith said. “And getting these people off the streets will make our city and parish much safer in general.”
The scope of the operation—that began early in 2010 with undercover drug buys—was called “tremendous,” by top St. Tammany Sheriff’s Capt. Barney Tyrney, a narcotics agent.
Over 10 kilos of cocaine, with a street value of approximately $250,000, was purchased by undercover agents during the operation that involved both Slidell law enforcement agents, along with the FBI, the U.S. Marshal’s Office, the Louisiana Probation and Parole Division and the Plaquemines Parish Sheriff’s Office.
In Slidell, the arrests began with the execution of four search warrants that led to 30 subjects being arrested. A total of 20 others were still at large and being sought.
But the real effect from what happened, behind the obvious result of busting many drug dealers, will be seen in other ways, Slidell law enforcement officials explained.
“There is a lot of connection between these drug dealers, and those wanting to buy drugs, with many other crimes,” Slidell Police Capt. Kevin Swann said. “When we go after the drug dealers, it helps keep other crimes down. And we have always spent a lot of our resources on fighting narcotics, since it stops other crimes. When there are no drugs to be bought, fewer crimes are committed by those wanting money to get the drugs.”
That seemed to be evident in recent year-end crime statistics issued by both the Slidell Police and the Sheriff’s Office.
City Police reported an overall drop in crime of 7.3 percent for last year, with burglaries down 16 percent, thefts down 4 percent and auto thefts down 2.6 percent.
The Sheriff’s Office had similar declines in those areas, with parish burglaries down 12 percent, thefts down 5 percent, and auto thefts down 10 percent.
Overall, the Sheriff’s Office showed crime totals down 12 percent.
“This operation will have a tremendous impact on the drugs in our parish,” Tyrney added. “We know there will always be others stepping up, but this was a great effort by all these agencies. When others surface and try to deal here, we’ll go after them.”
David Welker, Special Agent in Charge with the FBI, headed the multi-agency press conference with all the New Orleans area media on hand. He acknowledged that the drug problem will always be with us, and takes this kind of cooperation to continually combat it.
“This operation is a testament to the cooperation we had from many different agencies and it takes this kind of work since the drug problem is so broad, not one agency can address the entire problem by itself,” he noted.
The investigation was begun after a request for assistance in early 2010 from St. Tammany Sheriff Jack Strain.
If convicted, over half of those arrested will be facing life in prison and won’t be on the streets selling drugs anymore, Swann said.
“This operation was a huge success due to the cooperation between all agencies involved,” Smith added. “I am glad to get these people off the streets and behind bars where they belong.”
The level of violence referred to by Smith was seen in some of the arrests made in New Orleans, as part of the operation. There was one shooting where several suspects fired on police before they were arrested.
The Department of Justice in the Eastern District of Louisiana, headed by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, followed the arrests with a 19-count indictment against eight major dealers arrested in New Orleans, connected to the Slidell arrests.
Swann acknowledged the need for continual operations like this, which is why the St. Tammany area maintains its low-crime atmosphere.
“We know drugs will always be out there. This is the fourth multi-agency investigation we have had that resulted in a lot of arrests,” he said. “If we keep targeting these upper-level dealers, we’ll address the worst part of the drug problem.”