Committee updated on June drugs, firearms roundup

Published 4:55 pm Friday, July 28, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

City leaders learned more about the July 12 roundup that netted nearly dozen arrests on firearm and narcotics offenses during the new Public Safety Committee’s second meeting.

Other topics discussed during the Wednesday, July 26 meeting included plans for a safety committee online portal for the public to relay information and finding avenues to provide for community involvement.

Chief of Police Alfred S. Chandler, Jr. presented a report on the successful joint operation between local and federal agencies that led to various arrests for firearm and narcotics offenses. 

Email newsletter signup

A combined effort of the Suffolk Police Department, Federal Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Marshals Office, Suffolk Commonwealth Attorney’s office and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, the six-month investigation resulted in a multi-search warrant effort coordinated by the SPD’s Neighborhood Enforcement Team and Norfolk Division’s ATF team.

Chandler told committee members that NET and ATF conducted 141 controlled purchases of narcotics and firearms violations. This helped to bring 185 direct indictments. June saw 164 separate indictments involving people, while July saw 21 indictments returned against six individuals. More are still pending, Chandler said. 

The chief said 22 defendants are currently charged, with 17 being in custody. Overall, 149 indictments were served.

Chandler also provided more details on firearms that were seized, telling the committee they included pistols, revolvers, rifles and high capacity magazines.

“At the time of the press conference, I did not release what narcotics they were because we were not entirely 100% sure. We got a lot of stuff and we wanted to make sure that we did the proper testing to identify appropriately,” Chandler said. “In these events, we ended up getting cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, percocet, fentanyl, parafluorofentanyl, heroine, methamphetamine and xylazine. So obviously some of these are street level narcotics that we’re used to and some of these are prescription narcotics as well which is also a big deal in the drug world.”

Councilman Roger Fawcett asked how SPD was able to validate if the prescription narcotics were illegally obtained.

Chandler explained that they are tracking everything they can in the investigation.

“We see it from a lot of different ways. Sometimes it can be a proper prescription, it can be that they purchased from someone who had an actual prescription. It also can be that they purchased it from someone who breaks into houses, and that’s something that we’ve seen,” Chandler said. “You may not even think about the old bottle of oxycontin that you had when you went through that oral surgery and they know what that is and know the value.vSo sometimes we can track that down and sometimes we can’t.”

The committee also discussed plans for an online public portal for citizens to provide notifications of general public safety needs within their communities.

The city’s Director of Media and Communications Jennifer Moore said the portal is not “a substitution for dialing 911” and isn’t intended for reporting criminal activity. 

Fawcett said he believes it’s important online access is simple so for those who are not computer savvy.

“I would like to make it easy for them to be able to get to that website, because it seems like you got to go through a few hoops here,” Fawcett said. 

Mayor Michael D. Duman agreed with Fawcett on making it “really easy.”

Commonwealth’s Attorney Narendra R. Pleas said it also needs to be clear so portal users do not confuse it with a tip line. 

“Public safety is a very broad term and I think seeing people thinking, especially with law enforcement being on the public safety committee, that this is that forum to share those things. And that’s my only concern,” Pleas said.

On community involvement, the committee discussed maps with zones and combining areas with similar needs. 

Duman said zones can be used to bring communities together to express their concerns and needs to the committee.

“The purpose of the zones is to be able to create an organization, be it a civic league or church group.  That would be the meeting place – the venue – for that particular zone where citizens can meet to discuss issues,” Duman said. “What we want to encourage is citizens to come out and express their concerns with their neighbors and have them determine what they believe needs to be brought to the Public Safety Committee.”

Comparing the information being brought in like a “funnel,” Duman  said the issues of one zone won’t be similar to another. 

Adding the legal perspective, Assistant City Attorney Rebecca Powers pointed to the issues of representation not being divided equally.

“I don’t have any problem with zones whatsoever, the only problem that I have is that if you’re going to assign representatives for the zones,” Powers said. “If we’re going to say ‘this is the person that’s going to be the contact point for this zone, this is who the city is recognize as the representative,’ then we’re running into issues because then you have one person for this huge landmass and you have one person with these tiny little landmasses. It doesn’t look like there’s equal representation for everybody in the city.”

To provide equal representation, Powers suggested allowing the citizens to form their own groups. 

Fawcett wanted the committee to slow down and focus on topics one by one. 

“To me, we should be taking one bite of this at a time and getting it right, and go on to the next thing,” he said.