A precinct captain's idea turned into cold reality for up to 31 suspects in the Bailey-Kensington drug trade today when Buffalo police charged them with felony sale of crack cocaine.
Capt. Lawrence Ramunno, commander of the Kensington Station, devised the plan to detail four precinct detectives intimately familiar with the Bailey-Kensington area, rather than narcotics detectives who work the whole city.
"They know who the drug dealers are," Ramunno said of the precinct detectives.
Working with an undercover rookie police officer who made almost all the crack cocaine buys, Detectives Richard Doyle and Thomas Vivian and acting Detectives Tony Wills and Salvatore Valvo were able to obtain felony indictment warrants against the 31 suspects.
"Capt. Ramunno's model worked so well that we hope to use it in other areas of the city," Deputy Commissioner Rocco J. Diina said of his former patrol partner from the early 1970s.
While highly publicized drug sweeps often make a lot of noise but accomplish little, top police officials pointed out that all these arrests are felonies.
When a drug sweep produces misdemeanor charges for possessing drugs, the suspects often are locked up briefly, then released on their own recognizance.
"Usually, they're back on the streets the next day, and it's business as usual," Ramunno said.
Instead, the undercover officer, working with precinct detectives, made the buys from late December to early February. Detectives then worked with two investigators from the Erie County district attorney's office to obtain the felony indictment warrants.
Criminal sales of any controlled substance is a felony, but possession can be either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the amount and type.
"We felt if we made felony arrests, these people would do some hard time, 18 months to two years," Ramunno said.
Today's roundup represented the second such strike against drug dealers in the Bailey-Kensington area. Last August, 20 suspects were arrested on similar felony indictments.
"We'll have 50 hard-core dealers off the streets in six months," Ramunno said.
Almost all the young men arrested today -- there was one female suspect -- are in their late teens or early 20s. Police officials hope that some of them, facing serious felony charges, will help authorities with information so they can confiscate weapons and arrest some of the ringleaders in the area.
Ramunno also vowed that police will keep the pressure on the street dealers who remain.
"We're going be back out there very shortly with another initiative in the Bailey-Kensington area," he said.
Police also plan to use tough street corners in the Kensington Station precinct for a pilot project posting large signs to warn drug dealers and other criminals, Capt. Crystalea Burns-Pelletier said.
" 'This area is under surveillance for drug trafficking, vandalism and loitering,' " the signs would say. " 'License numbers of vehicles and photos will be taken.' "
Lt. Kevin Kelly of the Narcotics Squad coordinated today's roundup. Twelve teams of four officers each hit the streets at 5:30 a.m. to begin the sweep that led to 23 arrests by mid-morning.
"These are the kids on the street corners selling the drugs," Kelly said. "These are the ones that are causing the problems."
The suspects were identified as Ronald Atkinson, 18, of Roosevelt Avenue; Dale Carter, 17, of East Amherst Street; Robert Douglas of Wyoming Avenue; Neal Dobbins, 17, of Cambridge Avenue; Ashunta Ellison, 19, of Worcester Place; Marlin Gainer, 24, of Crescent Avenue; Michael Gibson, 16, of Ruhland Avenue; Jermaine Dunbar, 17, of Montana Avenue.
Also, Jermaine Jemison, 17, of Northumberland Avenue; Lamain Jones, 16, of Leroy Avenue; Jermaine Jordan, 18, of Winchester Street; Raymond Kincannon, 22, of Howlett Avenue; Edwin Lewis, 16, of Bailey Avenue; Andrea Little of Berkshire Avenue; Marion McIllwain, 22, of Millicent Avenue; David Miller, 21, of East Delavan Avenue.
And, Richard Morris, 16, of Ericson Avenue; James Peterson, 19, of Arden Avenue; Dwayne Posey, 19, of Norfolk Avenue; Courtland Renford, 19, of Mapleridge Avenue; Terrance Smith, 31, of Cornwall Avenue; Jacquin Stevens, 19, of Davidson Avenue; and Kevin Walker of Leroy Avenue.
Police were hoping to arrest the remaining suspects later today or tonight.