Operation Cracked Sidewalk nabs 39 Sarasota drug dealers - WFLA News Channel 8

Operation Cracked Sidewalk nabs 39 Sarasota drug dealers

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Sarasota police have wrapped up a five month sting to get rid of drug dealers called, 'Operation Cracked Sidewalk'.

Sarasota police officers researched crime data to find what parts of the city had the worst problem.

They looked at complaints and statistics and found a region of the city in the Newtown community where there were a lot of narcotics sales.

Newtown is just north of Sarasota's bustling downtown district.  It's a community firmly rooted in the city's history, and it has had a history of problems.

Jetson Grimes own a hair salon in Newtown.  From his hair salon, Jetson Grimes has seen drugs wreak havoc in his neighborhood.  "Addiction is addiction," said Jetson Grimes as he snipped a customer's hair.

"I've seen a lot of problems with the kids that come through my shop.  And see all the potentials and the hopes they have and a lot of times you lose them to drugs," he said.

Sarasota police officers have been listening.

In January the department started 'Operation Cracked Sidewalk.'

Police officers collected data to find the location of most drug deals.  Over the course of five months, officers aggressively tracked down street level drug dealers.

Police Chief Bernadette DiPino said, "This is the first step in our strategy to make Sarasota a safe community."

"Drug crimes relate to every other crime within our community. And it's a direct correlation between the drug crimes and the violence that we're seeing in our community," DiPino said.

Earlier this month, officers arrested 39 drug dealers, some with lengthy criminal records.

But there were six dealers whose charges were deferred.

Officers believe these six people still have a chance to change.  The police department will team up with families and community members to place the six in rehab and job placement programs.

DiPino said, "We're gonna embrace these individuals. We believe that they can really be a valuable asset to our community. And we care about helping them get onto the right road."

And Jetson Grimes thinks that's the key to win this fight.

"If we become surrogate families with fathers and mothers in the community and nurture those kids and help those kids, you'll start seeing a change," said Grimes.

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