Community helps Sarasota police make large drug bust

Neighbors take back their streets

SARASOTA, Fla. -- A community fed up with the drug dealing in their neighborhood help Sarasota Police make a big bust. Officers took down 35 convicted felons and are looking for two more. Police says it’s a partnership with citizens that helps make streets safer.

Pioneer Park a place for kids to play and make family memories often sits empty except for dog owners like Ursula Carson.

“The drugs spoil everything,” says Carson.

Carson has lived in this Sarasota neighborhood off Cocoanut Ave and 12th street for 10 years. She says, “You could look out your window and see people exchanging drugs on bicycles or standing on the street corner waiting to sell their drugs.”

“We got a lot of citizen complaints about it,” says Captain Corinne Stannish, Criminal Investigation Division.

Plus tips from the community and good police work says Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino led to 35 arrests of street level drug dealers with a criminal history. Together they have 327 previous felony convictions says DiPino.

“I warned them since I got here we will be targeting drug dealers in our community. It’s a felony, [it] causes problems -- economic and social -- in our community. We’re not going to stop continuing our effort,” says DiPino.

Operation Fresh Start is the 4th of its kind since the chief took office in 2013 totaling 175 arrests so far.

Some homeowners say they’ve seen a significant improvement in the drug dealing and prostitution problem around Pioneer Park but say there’s still a problem.

“Over the last year, it’s more quiet [and] more peaceful. [I] don’t see as much but it’s still there,” says Carson.

An improvement thanks to concerned citizens who spoke up.

Chief DiPino says, “I’m proud of our community they’re partnering with us not allowing this in our community either.”

Sarasota Police say they will continue the undercover operations to eliminate drug dealing in the city. Anyone with a tip is asked to call the Narcotics Hotline at 941-954-7050.


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