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17 ARRESTED IN CRACKDOWN ON STREET DRUGS

Seventeen people were arrested in the Salamanca area Monday after police conducted an early morning drug sweep to crack down on street-level sales of marijuana and prescription drugs.

Operation "Street Sweeper" targeted dealers who were peddling marijuana and prescription drugs, including hydrocodone, Ritalin, fentanyl, OxyContin and Percocet -- all used by drug users to "get high," police said.

The 18-month investigation was prompted by citizen complaints and police tips and involved surveillance, confidential informants and undercover drug buys.

On Monday, about 80 state troopers, sheriff's deputies and city police from the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force -- comprised of nine police agencies -- executed the arrest warrants starting at about 5:45 a.m. Three people wanted on arrest warrants are still being sought.

"These are street-level dealers who were selling drugs out of their homes and on street corners," said State Police Senior Investigator Walter Mackney, who's in charge of the Task Force's Olean office. "This is an outstanding example of inter-agency cooperation."

No search warrants were executed Monday, but a "marginal amount of (marijuana) in plain view" was confiscated during the sweep, said Cattaraugus County Undersheriff Timothy S. Whitcomb.

Thirteen people were arrested in Salamanca, and one person was arrested in Jamestown, Olean, Little Valley and the Town of Randolph, respectively.

Twelve were arrested on felony grand jury indictments while the rest were arrested on local criminal court warrants.

The charges ranged from violations to Class B felonies, including criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Monday's raid follows the arrest of eight people during a May 13 drug sweep in Salamanca by the task force and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

"I'm proud of our involvement in the Task Force," said Whitcomb. "Obviously, there's a problem and we need to continue to address it."

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com

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