Reverse sting nets 240 drug suspects in city

February 15, 2000|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

More than 200 people traveled to nine city drug corners yesterday in search of a Valentine's Day treat, but instead ended up with a date from a court commissioner.

Baltimore police -- in conjunction with an effort to rid 10 neighborhoods of drug traffic by summer -- conducted a reverse sting operation yesterday in which officers posed as drug dealers and arrested unsuspecting buyers.

Called "Operation Be My Valentine," the eight-hour operation was conducted at one corner in each of the nine police districts.

Most of the corners fall within 10 areas recently designated for the police Open Air Drug Market Eradication Program. Police Commissioner Ronald L. Daniel said the operation was targeting suburban addicts who travel to Baltimore to buy drugs.

The undercover officers -- many dressed in baggy clothes and wearing gold chains -- arrested suspects after they asked for drugs. Police also seized the suspects' vehicles.

Police said 240 people were arrested and charged with drug offenses and 52 cars were seized in the operation, which was conducted by each district's operations and drug enforcement unit.

"We got four guys in a Lincoln Navigator and they had balloons and baskets of candies and chocolates with them to give their girlfriends," said Lt. Russell Shea, the operation coordinator. "Now they are in jail, their car is in the city yard and the chocolate is at the evidence control room."

Police said 41 percent of the suspects were from outside Baltimore, including some from Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Daniel said the message was clear: "I want people to worry about coming into the city to buy drugs."

In previous reverse drug-sting operations, suspects were given the option of entering mandatory drug treatment instead of facing formal charges, but Daniel renounced that policy yesterday.

"This is not a game," he said.

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