Thirty-one suspects have been charged in connection to a massive drug bust dubbed “Operation Hard Candy” targeting downtown San Diego’s East Village neighborhood.
The bust involves methamphetamine, cocaine base and heroin, sold to undercover officers, officials said.
The bust was a result of a month-long undercover operation targeting street-level drug dealers. It began in October 2015 as a response to complaints from residents and businesses in East Village, according to a news release from the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.
After a week-long grand jury hearing, 22 indictments were issued against 31 defendants. So far, 26 of the 31 suspects have been arrested.
Already, 20 defendants have pleaded guilty and face sentencing on various drug charges in May.
Most of the residents and business folks that spoke to NBC7 Thursday along Market near 11th Avenue were simply shocked at the level of hard drugs in the area. Also, many said they had not noticed the undercover police presence.
"I'm very thankful that the San Diego police are making a real effort and making moves like that to help try to clean-up drugs in society in general," said Hollice Cameron, who works in the area. "I think it's really important."
Deputy District Attorney Hung Bach said the investigation was brought forward by SDPD to address resident complaints about blatant drug sales and open use of drugs on the streets, mostly around Commercial and Fourth and Fifth streets.
"They wanted to address the public's concerns and tackle this issue head-on," Bach said.
District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said the operation has made the neighborhood safer.
"The presence of prevalent drug-dealing in a neighborhood invariably leads to an increase of other various crimes like robberies and theft," Dumanis said. It's a sentiment shared by many residents who spoke to NBC7 Thursday.
"I called about it," said Janely Perez, referring to drug activity in the East Village neighborhood where she works. "I came from a place where that's all I would see is drugs and criminals and people getting killed, shot, stabbed and I move here and start to see anything like that and think 'there's some changes we need to make.'"
Police are still looking to serve arrest warrants to five suspects.