Cmdr Cheryl Doubt talks about the arrest of 20 people in the West End area in the past 8 months in an ongoing drug investigation during a press conference.
Pam Panchak / Post-Gazette
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Police Chief Nathan Harper discusses the arrest of 20 people in the West End area.
By Sadie Gurman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Complaints from residents in several West End neighborhoods triggered an undercover investigation that netted drugs, cash, guns, cars and the arrests of 20 people described as street-level dealers, Pittsburgh police and city leaders announced Wednesday.
"The impact of these arrests will certainly make this a better place to live," said police Commander Scott Schubert of the Zone 6 station in the West End, standing with other officials outside the Mountain View Community housing development at Woodlow and Crucible streets in Crafton Heights, one of the areas where residents complained of open-air drug sales.
Their concerns and those of people living in parts of Sheraden spurred an eight-month investigation that continues, as police monitor several other offenders.
The arrests were the result of undercover work by narcotics detectives and plainclothesmen from the Zone 6 station who purchased heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana from the dealers, often more than once, said Cmdr. Cheryl Doubt of the narcotics and vice unit. She described the 20 arrestees as street-level dealers who worked independently, selling drugs on the street, sometimes near playgrounds and school zones.
Nine of them, she added, are members of the street gangs Greenway Block Killers of Crafton Heights and Zhoove, based in Beltzhoover. Several are repeat drug offenders. Three are juveniles. And most are from West End communities, police said, although the area is known to attract dealers and buyers from other counties and neighboring states.
"We want to send a clear message to the drug traffickers and dealers that we're serious," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. "Drug activity of any kind will not be tolerated."
Detectives also seized four vehicles, four firearms and more than $10,000 in cash. They pulled from the streets heroin, crack and marijuana worth at least $11,000, by police estimates.
At least four other arrests are pending. Although concerns remain that other dealers will move in to fill the void, Cmdr. Doubt said detectives continue to monitor the area.
"Those that are on our radar are on our radar now," Cmdr. Doubt said.
Among the areas detectives targeted was the Goodwill Plaza, an eight-story tower in Sheraden. Residents there on Wednesday said they often spot drug dealers around the benches in front of the building. They also spoke of violence throughout the neighborhood that they believed could be a product of the drug trade.
One man, who declined to give his name for fear of his safety, said he has witnessed drug deals and "it would be nice to clean it up."