Clean Sweep

Investigators from five independent law enforcement agencies have come together to staunch the flow of drugs into the city of Jamestown from its metropolitan neighbors.

A year-long, multi-jurisdictional sting operation executed Wednesday morning in Jamestown and the surrounding area has resulted in the arrest of 41 people involved with the transportation and distribution of heroin into the city.

Code-named “Operation Horseback,” the bust included several raids which were conducted simultaneously by agents of the Attorney General’s Office, the New York State Police Department, the Jamestown Police Department, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Border Patrol. The arrests were made as part of a 159-count indictment unsealed Wednesday in Chautauqua County Supreme Court, in which 47 individuals were identified in affiliation with a massive drug-trafficking ring.

The investigation began slightly more than a year ago following a noticeable increase in drug-related crime, such as larceny and burglary, in Jamestown. Over the course of the investigation, a series of drug pipelines were discovered to be funneling heroin into the city from Buffalo, Philadelphia and New York City’s Washington Heights. Following the execution of “Operation Horseback,” more than 3,000 baggies of heroin with an estimated street value of $60,000, all intended for distribution in Jamestown, were seized.

Three of the five agencies involved in the operation were represented during a press conference held at Jamestown City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. Representatives who addressed members of the media included: Harry Snellings, chief of Jamestown Police Department and director of public safety; Col. Patricia Groeber, field commander with the New York State Police Department; and Peri Kadanoff, deputy attorney general with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, who was in charge of the organized crime task force.

Snellings revealed that, of the 41 arrests made through the investigation, 25 were made in the city of Jamestown.

“At 6 a.m. (Wednesday) morning, teams comprised of over 120 law enforcement officers from every level of law enforcement were deployed to residences throughout the city of Jamestown and Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties,” Snellings said. “Additionally, arrests were made in Binghamton, New York City and Puerto Rico. A total of 41 (people) have been taken into custody, and more arrests are expected.”

Snellings added that six individuals had been in custody prior to the Wednesday morning sting operation, and the remaining arrests were made in the areas of Cassadaga, Mayville, Randolph, Wellsville, Binghamton and New York City. He also reported that three residential search warrants, independent from the primary investigation, were conducted on Water, North Main and Park streets in search of additional heroin, cash and stolen property – all of which were seized.

Snellings said Jamestown has experienced an increase in the instances of heroin overdoses and heroin-related crimes over the past two years. To illustrate the prevalence of the growing problem, he said 119 bags of heroin were seized in 2012, 826 bags were seized last year, and 3,767 – along with an additional 50 grams of unpackaged heroin – have been seized to date in 2014.

“Jamestown Police Department will continue to aggressively investigate and apprehend anyone involved with the trafficking of narcotics in our city,” he said. “We are dedicated to continuing our collaborative efforts with the New York State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team, and all of our partnerships that were developed throughout this investigation. It was refreshing to witness agencies working together in a unified effort, maintaining their focus and not losing sight of what they were here to do.”

Kadanoff supported Snellings’ statistics with one of her own, a 67 percent increase in the amount of heroin seized in New York state over the past five years.

“With the collaboration of our law enforcement partners, we have taken dangerous drugs and dangerous drug runners off the streets,” Kadanoff said. “If it were not for the collaboration of these resources, we could not be doing drug busts like this one.”