by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:
More than 30 drug dealers and suspected gang members were arrested following a months-long undercover operation around Westlake, police said.
Operation Happy Holidays was conducted by the Seattle Police Gang Unit, drug detectives, the West Precinct bike team and King County Sheriff’s deputies on buses. Federal authorities also were involved.
The operation started after officers received numerous reports of drug dealing and gang activity near the Third Avenue corridor, police said.
“For months, police documented hand-to-hand drug deals and purchased crack cocaine, powder cocaine, pills, and marijuana in the downtown core and developed cases against 40 people,” department spokesman Jonah Spangenthal-Lee said in a statement. “This week, police began making arrests.”
Gang Unit Sergeant Steve Jandoc said detectives specifically targeted gang members and dealers instead of addicts.
Jandoc said the suspects arrested were not eligible for the program that helps some suspects get into treatment services. They were not eligible because of their long criminal histories.
Seventeen of the suspects have three prior felony convictions, four have nine prior felony convictions, and one suspect has 12 prior felony convictions, police said.
Shortly before the operation started, KIRO 7 went along Third Avenue and found people getting high and selling drugs. One woman, Isis Bacani, admitted she had been using crack.
"It's been a long, long couple of days and I've been shopping, getting high, shopping, wandering around, doing nothing," she said. Bacani is not among those arrested in the recent operation.
The months-long investigation also led to police recovering a handgun and evidence of crack cocaine manufacturing at a Georgetown motel. Investigators said the operation was “complicated by savvy street dealers who have taken advantage of recent changes to marijuana laws,” Spangenthal-Lee said.
“Dealers will sell marijuana,” Jandoc said in a statement, “but they like to get to know their customers before they’ll sell other drugs.”
Of the 31 people arrested, 15 were charged late Wednesday in King County Superior Court, but the documents were not immediately available. All were charged with drug delivery for either cocaine or heroin.
Others are expected to be charged later this week.
On July 31, the Downtown Seattle Association sent a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn and city council members saying they were “deeply troubled by the numerous violent incidents that have occurred over the past several weeks in the core of Downtown Seattle.” Follow the link to read the full letter.
Recently, the county, city and Downtown Seattle Association entered into the Third Avenue agreement, calling for a series of improvements to the Third Avenue corridor, including “enforcement against criminal activity, and coordinated support for individuals who struggle with extreme poverty, limited housing resources, mental illness and/or drug and alcohol dependence,” according to a statement from the county executive’s office.
Following the arrests, the Downtown Seattle Association released the following statement:
“The Downtown Seattle Association is appreciative of the Seattle Police Department’s efforts to get criminals off the streets and to make Downtown more inviting and safe. This operation, and the work of the Center City Initiative, are important steps in helping to make the urban experience in Downtown Seattle the very best.”