The number of drug arrests and resulting felony charges in the city of Jamestown is on the rise, courtesy of the police department's Drug Enforcement Unit.
After separating from the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force more than a year ago, the primary drug investigation team here has executed dozens of search warrants and seized mounds of drugs.
Most importantly, city police officials said, were the 83 drug dealers and users taken into custody from March 2012 to January of this year. The most common charge as a result of the investigations is third-degree criminal sale or possession of a controlled substance, a class B felony.
"We wanted to focus our efforts here in the city," Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings said of the split from the regional drug task force.
Snellings said rising operational costs, mostly in the form of overtime, and a lack of personnel control within the task force, led to the creation of the DEU.
"I looked at things from a financial perspective," Snellings said. "The drug task force used to be funded, and then the funding ran out. So we started to look at our expenditures versus the caseload, so that was one part of it.
"The other was operational. We didn't have direct control of our own personnel, which in turn we couldn't control financial costs."
In the first nine months of operation, the DEU executed 47 search warrants, resulting in the seizure of two handguns and six long guns. The unit also conducted 175 controlled drug transactions. Drugs seized include: 19.5 ounces of crack cocaine/cocaine, 119 bags of heroin, 31 pounds of marijuana, 14 grams of methamphetamine and 77 dosage units of prescription pills.
More than $49,000 in cash was recovered during that time as well, police said. A percentage of the money collected goes to the District Attorney's Office, while the rest stays with Jamestown police for other investigations and equipment.
According to Capt. Robert Samuelson of the Jamestown Police Department, the DEU routinely partners with the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, local police agencies, the Department of Homeland Security and SWAT team to execute search warrants and conduct raids.
Snellings said members of the DEU - which can be as few as two investigators at times - can be assigned to other investigations. The police chief, though, noted many crimes are related to drug trafficking in the city.
Keeping investigators local was not an option while they were members of the drug task force, Snellings said.
"The benefit of having them here every day, we can discuss known suspects, relationships, associations, and that helps us solve other cases," he said.
Samuelson, meanwhile, said the police department's tip line, 483-8477, on average receives six calls a day. Many drug investigations are facilitated by the anonymous line, he said. As a result, DEU probes can begin immediately, he said.
"We try to promote the tip line any time we release information to the public," he said. "The media, too, has really helped in getting the word out. Enough cannot be said of it."