Local chiefs believe bust sends strong message
SHAMOKIN - Local police chiefs believe Thursday's bust of 16 people suspected in an international heroin and cocaine ring will not only disrupt drug trafficking in the area, but will lead to a decrease in other crimes.
At least for awhile.
Mount Carmel Chief of Police Todd Owens, a field supervisor for the Northumberland-Montour Drug Task Force, said it's great that local cops could assist a grand jury in "infiltrating and disrupting" the international operation.
"I think the bust will have a downward trickle effect on users and suppliers," he said. "I believe the raid will send a really strong message that we aren't only going after users, but also after the main sources of the drug supply. Hopefully, this will keep users and dealers guessing."
About a dozen local residents and the alleged ring leader, Juan Carlos Alaverez, 27, of Hazleton, originally from the Dominican Republic, were nabbed in the raid coordinated by local, state and federal authorities.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Shamokin Chief of Police Edward Griffiths.
"More arrests are pending, according to the attorney general's office. This should take the wind out of the sails of the drug dealers and users for awhile," Griffiths said.
"Every bust helps," he continued, "but I'm not naive enough to believe drug trafficking won't start up again."
Griffiths said recent arrests involving residents of Philadelphia and Reading distributing heroin and cocaine in the Shamokin area should warn dealers from bigger cities that towns like Shamokin and Mount Carmel aren't "easy prey" when it comes to selling drugs.
"Hopefully, the bust will make more people afraid to sell or use drugs in our area," he said.
Coal Township Police Chief William Carpenter described getting a large supplier like Alvarez as a "bonus." He noted that when drug use or sales are up, so are other crimes, like burglaries and thefts.
"Decreasing the illegal use or sale of drugs will lead to a decrease in other crimes that are committed by addicts who are willing to steal anything so they can feed their addiction," he said. "We can never totally stop the distribution or use of drugs, but we must remain persistent and diligent in our fight against drugs because when that gets out of hand, so do other crimes."
All three chiefs said drug abuse tends to go in cycles, but the worst cases currently involve heroin.
"Heroin use is particularly bad right now, and cocaine is a problem as well," said Carpenter.