Gangland Drug Bust
Recent gang arrests shake up narcotics trade.
Thursday, July 5, 2007
When the FBI and law enforcement officials arrested two dozen alleged gang members across California last week, including five in Monterey County, they did more than shake up an organized crime unit. Cops say they also plugged a hole in the free-flowing drug trade.>
“This investigation with the FBI resulted in substantial seizures [of narcotics] and a disruption of a network,” says Monterey County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Doug Dahmen. “Right now there’s a lot of chaos, and that will cause people to take significantly more precautions to ensure they’re not rolled up as part of the investigation, too, and it will disrupt their trade and drive up prices.”
Law enforcement says the methodical dismantling of the drug trade is making a dent. “At the beginning of the year, my guys were paying $600 for an ounce of meth on the street,” says Sheriff’s Narcotic Detective Sgt. Dan Karamitis. “Right now, we’re paying $1,200 to $1,400 an ounce.”
A decade ago, when anyone could buy cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine or ephedrine—meth’s key ingredients—over the counter, “it wasn’t uncommon to walk into super labs, where they were producing 10, 20, 30 pounds of meth,” Dahmen says. Now that ephedrine is controlled at state and federal levels, Dahmen says the super labs are rare, and meth is becoming more of an import drug than ever before.
Still, the Drug Enforcement Administration says meth use continues to rise, with new trends like flavored meth popping up at a steady rate.
Following a years-long investigation, last week’s Operation Valley Star was a major shake-up in the drug world. The two dozen or so alleged Nuestra Familia, Nuestra Raza, Northern Structure and Norteño gang members were arrested on a variety of charges, including conspiracy to distribute, and possession with the intent to distribute methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana and ecstasy.
Dahmen says it was a bad day for the gangs and their future prospects. “When you can take out key components of an organization, that has a big impact,” he says. “When you take off people of this caliber, it sends shockwaves through the organization. The good thing is that it becomes a chaotic situation for the criminal organization, which means they’ll make mistakes in trying to reorganize and get back out on the street. And that will keep law enforcement in the position of advantage.”