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23 CHARGED IN CRACKDOWN ON DRUG DEALS AT PROJECTS

Criminal charges were filed against 23 people Tuesday as part of a crackdown on people who deal crack cocaine and other drugs in and around Buffalo's 27 housing projects.

And authorities said a number of those arrested could face evictions under the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority's "One Strike, You're Out" policy against drug dealers.

Police believe no more than 5 percent of the approximately 9,000 residents of the city's public housing projects are involved in selling or using illegal drugs.

But that small group causes a lot of fear and discomfort for law-abiding residents in the 27 facilities throughout the city, authorities said.

"We do not feel we have a widespread drug problem in the housing developments in the city, but the dealing that we do have, we consider a serious problem," said Ronald J. Christopher, chief of the authority's public safety force.

"Ninety-five percent of the people living in these projects are law-abiding people, and not a day goes by that we don't get a complaint from one of them on how drug dealers are hurting their quality of life."

Over the past three years, approximately 150 tenants have been evicted from city housing projects under the "One Strike" policy that makes it possible for the authority to pursue evictions against drug dealers and violent criminals, Christopher said.

He said the authority probably will pursue evictions of "several, at least" of the people who were charged with drug crimes in Tuesday's roundup.

"The clear message that we want to broadcast to these people is that drug dealers are not welcome to ply their trade in these facilities," Christopher said.

Members of the Violent Crimes Task Force, made up of federal, state and local police agencies, conducted a six-month undercover investigation that led to Tuesday's arrests, said Bernard Tolbert, special agent in charge of the Buffalo FBI office.

Tolbert said the undercover officers from several departments made drug buys in and around the Commodore Perry, Shaffer Village, Kenfield-Langfield and Kowal Apartments complexes. He said the investigation is ongoing.

The State Police, Erie County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms and several other agencies assisted in the drug probe.

According to Christopher, the most abused drug in the projects seems to be crack cocaine, because of its low price and highly addictive qualities. He said powdered cocaine, heroin and marijuana also are problems.

Christopher said some of the people arrested Tuesday were Town of Tonawanda residents who come into the Shaffer Village project off Ontario Street to buy or sell drugs.

Charged with drug possession were:

Leon Bullock, 44, of Stevens Avenue; Linda Collins, 42, of Suffolk Street; Carey Culverhouse, 39, of West Lane; Alycia Goldsmith, 25, of Sobieski Street; Antonio Hall, 21, of Hertel Avenue; Lilliam Hicklin, 38, of E. Morris Avenue; Wayne Jackson, 22, no address available; Nicholas Johnson, 28, of North Lane; Thomas Johnson, 23, of Detroit Street; Dion Lewis, 21, no address available; Latrina Mays, 22, of Niagara Street; Tabitha Schmigel, 18, of Vulcan Street; Jessie Shields, 37, of Sobieski Street; Marian Gonzalez, 41, of Perry Street; Theresa Devine, 42, and Jamel Brannon, 23, both of Huter Street in the Town of Tonawanda; Clint Walker, 33, of Perry Street; Hector Payani, 16, of Perry Street; and Mark Wilson, 41, of Shepard Street.

The Erie County Sheriff's Department, which participated in the raids, also arrested two people for allowing their children to live in filth. The department did not identify the people arrested.

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