They acted like drug dealers -- until they pulled out the handcuffs.
Undercover officers arrested 60 would-be drug buyers during a four-hour sting operation yesterday on an East Baltimore street, where police posed as the crack and heroin dealers who have made the area their supermarket.
"We finally had to stop the operation because we couldn't accommodate all the customers who were showing up," said Baltimore police Maj. Wendell France. "The cars were creating a backlog in the street."
Police say that most of those arrested were not city residents. Some came to the 2300 block of E. Lafayette Ave. from as far away as Harford County to buy drugs, police said.
"Some came with very expensive autos," France said. "It's been a popular go-to spot for drug dealing because it's isolated and they can usually see the police coming from many directions."
The operation began about 9 a.m. when police, reacting to neighborhood reports of excessive drug selling, arrested a suspected dealer with 52 small bags of heroin and a handgun.
But rather than leave with the one arrest, undercover officers decided to take the place of the suspected dealer and his lookouts. Drivers would stop at the beginning of the block, which is lined with low-cost, fairly well-kept homes, and be greeted by the usual array of supposed drug salesmen, France said.
The front-end salesmen would take the orders of the people in the cars, then direct them to the rear of the block to pick up their "merchandise," France said.
But the only thing waiting for them at the end of the block was a couple of officers with handcuffs and a police van disguised as an ordinary vehicle.
"Lord, it was wonderful to see them all getting busted," said 58-year-old Lucy Miller, who said she regularly visits her son in the area. "They come in here all the time, driving through to pick up their drugs, and then they drive out. It's like a McDonald's drive-through."
Those arrested were charged with conspiracy to possess cocaine or heroin. Police said it is against the law to enter into any transaction to purchase drugs; they said officers at the scene did not actually sell drugs or collect money.
The operation was one of two major drug crackdowns announced in Baltimore yesterday. Federal authorities and city police said they broke up a "family affair" crack cocaine ring.
Stanley Hall, his mother, Matilda, and two brothers, Marquette Hall and Jesus Hall, were charged with conspiracy to sell cocaine. Baltimore police Col. John E. Gavrilis said he expected them to held without bail.
Stanley Hall was arrested at his Owings Mills home in Baltimore County, police said. His relatives were arrested at other locations.
Authorities said the ring primarily sold crack cocaine near the 200 block of N. Duncan St. in East Baltimore. In making the arrests, police and FBI agents recovered more than $20,000, 4 ounces of crack cocaine and a .40-caliber and two 9-mm semiautomatic pistols.
Pub Date: 10/18/97