Record Drug/Gang Takedown in Denver

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In what is being called the largest drug bust in Denver, Colorado history, 80 people were arrested last week according to a DEA press release. Along with those, a related arrest of gang members brought the total to 97 (with 10 more still being sought).

Items seized during the sweep included $415,140 in cash, almost 60 lbs of cocaine and a pound of methamphetamine. Besides drugs, gang members are thought to be involved in some sixteen bank robberies.

Huge number of police departments involved

This event may also represent a record breaking combination of police agencies. According to the DEA, the following police services (local, state and federal) get some credit for the arrests:

"The FBI, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Aurora Police Department, the Colorado National Guard, the Colorado State Patrol, the Commerce City Police Department, the Denver District Attorney’s Office, the Denver Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, ICE/HSI, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the Rocky Mountain HIDTA, the Thornton Police Department, the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), DEA, ICE/HSI, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Marshals Service, DEA Los Angeles Field Division and attorneys from the Criminal Division’s Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section and the Office of International Affairs, North Metro Task Force (comprised of law enforcement officers from the Adams County Sheriff’s Office, the Thornton Police Department, the Westminster Police Department, the Commerce City Police Department, the Northglenn Police Department, and the Federal Heights Police Department).

In all, more than 500 agents were involved.

The the benefit worth the effort?

That in itself is a commentary on how modern law enforcement is accomplished. Cross agency cooperation and resource sharing are the rule instead of the exception. This allows for sweeps and investigations that cross into many jurisdictions and taps into both state and federal support when needed. However, it also points out the amount of policing we have going on continuously. None of these organizations came into being for this bounty, they are ongoing.

In an era where budgets are getting a hard look, there’s a cost benefit analysis in play. Should it take an average of five agents per arrest? There’s no real way to answer this. The drugs seized, along with the weapons, removes some extremely dangerous material from the streets of Denver. And the crimes are serious enough that many of the defendants are facing mandatory prison terms – so the really bad guys will be off the streets as well. Only the voting public will be able to decide whether having what amounts to an army of police is what we need to keep us safe.

It does make alternatives more attractive. If there were a way to head off the criminal before they made the move into hard drug sales or gang life, that would represent a huge savings – well worth exploring. The results of social programs and treatment options aren’t as dramatic. There’s no headline when 80 people stay clean and crime free. But where prevention actually works, prevention should used.

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