Concerned that a more potent form of heroin has invaded Baltimore streets, city police, armed with 40 search and seizure warrants, raided more than two dozen homes in the Park Heights community yesterday, seeking 50 people suspected of distributing the drug.
Two hundred police officers participated in "Operation Raw," named after "raw heroin," commonly sold at high purity levels and snorted, rather than injected, by its users.
Police and health officials throughout the nation have warned that the influx of the drug is attracting a new group of addicts who are afraid of contracting AIDS through the use of needles.
"It needs to be done because of the problem that is here," said Norma Oliver, director of the Park Heights Community Center, who complained of the pervasive drug activity. "It's all out in the open and you can see it everywhere."
Police said they seized $30,000 worth of narcotics, 18 handguns and rifles and several vehicles in the raids which began about 11: 30 a.m. By yesterday evening, 25 suspects were in custody, charged with felony narcotic violations and weapons charges.
The suspects are being held on preset bails ranging from $50,000 to $1 million at the Central Booking and Intake Center.
Police took the suspects to a command center at the former F&M building at West 29th Street and Remington Avenue, where they were questioned by detectives about a recent spate of violence in the area.
In July, four men from the Bronx were arrested at a rowhouse in the 4300 block of Shamrock Ave. in Northeast Baltimore after police seized more than 1 1/2-pounds of raw heroin worth an estimated $500,000.
Yesterday's operation was the result of an investigation that began in mid-June when detectives began making undercover drug purchases.