Sarasota drug sweep nets 43 suspects with 316 prior felony convictions

SARASOTA -- Detectives arrested 43 suspects in Operation Safe Neighborhood, conducted using undercover detectives to make drug buys from suspected street level dealers in areas that intelligence-led policing proved to be highest in drug crimes, officials announced Friday.

Operation Safe Neighborhood was a six-month investigation conducted by the Sarasota Police Department Narcotics Unit. The goal was to target street level drug dealers within the city of Sarasota. The operation began in December 2014 and ended with an arrest roundup in May, said Sarasota Police Lieutenant James Rieser of the Criminal Investigation Division

Charges include sale of rock cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, church or park, sale of heroin, sale of a controlled substance and sale of spice/designer drugs. The charges of sale of rock cocaine within 1,000 feet of a school, church or park carries a three-year minimum/mandatory sentence, according to the department's press release. The 43 people arrested have a combined total of 316 felony convictions.

The drug buys by undercover detectives were conducted in area including:

· Seven in the Gillespie Park area

· Fifteen in the area of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way

· Thirteen in the area of Central Avenue and Cocoanut Avenue

· Nine in the North Tamiami Trail area to include the area around the 1100 block of 32rd Street

“This is the most people we’ve ever arrested in a street-level operation. This operation is one of many ways the Sarasota Police Department is combating drug sales and activity in our community,” said Lieutenant James Rieser, Criminal Investigation Division. “The Sarasota Police Department is committed to making the residents and visitors of the City of Sarasota feel safe through our drug enforcement efforts. We will continue to investigate complaints and create proactive operations to reduce the flow of illegal narcotics into our community.”