San Diego Police Department

32 Alleged Drug Dealers Arrested in Major East Village Sting Operation: DA

The San Diego County District Attorney’s announced that dozens of alleged drug dealers have been indicted and arrested in a major sting operation across the East Village area.

At the start of 2019, authorities responded to complaints from residents in the downtown area that it had “become increasingly easy to buy illegal drugs.”

“This area has been notorious as a drug-dealing hub for several years,” San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said during a press conference Friday afternoon.

By April 2019, Stephan said the problem “seemed to be getting worse.”

“All community members living in that area, and they felt like they could not feel safe looking out the window for fear of observing a drug deal and becoming a potential witness or being looked at as a snitch,” she said.

That’s when local law enforcement teamed up to address the growing issue.

Dubbed “Operation Red Beard,” the District Attorney’s Office teamed up with the San Diego Police Department in April 2019. Together, the agencies spent four months investigating the one-square-mile block next door to Petco Park.

During this time, undercover officers were involved in dozens of meth, heroin, and cocaine purchases from what the District Attorney’s Office described as a “small army of dealers.” Officers typically bought between 0.01 to 3.00 grams.

operation red beard map 112119
San Diego County District Attorney's Office

On Oct. 30, 30 indictments were handed down against 41 people, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed. As of Friday, 32 of the 41 accused have been arrested, and of those people, 30 have already been arraigned on related charges.

“This is an excellent example of a coordinated, proactive response by law enforcement to address an uptick in crime and take action to improve safety in an area of downtown that continues to provide public safety challenges,” Stephan said.

The District Attorney’s Office said many of the charges include transporting and selling a controlled substance, which typically come with a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.

“By far, the most common illegal drug being sold in the area was meth – something that is consistent with drugs found in people who are arrested in the county,” the district attorney said.

Roughly 70 percent of the defendants have previous felonies, including kidnapping, gang-related assaults, and attempted murder, officials confirmed.

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