LAWRENCE — As part of the police department’s reinvigorated effort over the last year to crack down on the burgeoning drug trade across the city, three people were arrested Thursday and charged with trafficking $5,000 in heroin and cocaine following a daylong surveillance operation. Police also arrested two more on drug possession charges.
“This was a significant drug operation,” Police Chief John Romero said yesterday. “These were major arrests.”
In addition to more than 60 grams of cocaine and heroin, police also seized an unregistered firearm, nearly 40 rounds of ammunition, almost $4,500 in cash, several cellphones and miscellaneous drug paraphernalia.
Romero said the arrests are a sign that the department, understaffed following massive layoffs in 2010, has nearly returned to its full potential.
“We are in the process of dismantling drug operations in the city,” Romero said. “For two years, we didn’t have the resources.”
In July 2010, the city was forced to lay off 40 police officers due to budget cuts, and Romero had to eliminate the department’s special operations units. Crime spiked as all the officers on the force were put in a “reactive” mode instead of “proactive, crime-fighting” mode, Romero said.
“For two years, all we did was respond to crime because we had to do away with special operations,” he said. “Now, we’re playing catch-up.”
These arrests came following a daylong surveillance set up by the city’s recently re-instated Special Operations-Street Narcotics Unit, acting on tips from neighbors and with help from a confidential informant.
Romero credited neighbors with dropping a dime about the operation.
“Most of our leads come from the neighborhoods,” he said. “That’s how we make these arrests. People call us with drug tips. Believe it or not, these things pay off. ... This was a good-sized drug operation.”