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Undercover cops target East Village drug dealers

Posted at 3:12 PM, Apr 28, 2016

A monthlong undercover operation targeting street-level drug dealers in San Diego's East Village neighborhood resulted in 22 grand jury indictments against 31 suspects, local authorities announced Thursday.

"Operation Hard Candy" was a San Diego Police Department-led investigation that began last October involving SDPD's Central Division Command Enforcement Team. The operation was launched in response to complaints from residents and businesses about blatant drug sales and open drug use throughout the East Village area.

Undercover officers took to the streets and purchased a wide variety of controlled substances from local street dealers in areas most impacted by narcotics activity.

The types of drugs sold to undercover officers included methamphetamine, cocaine base and heroin.

"The presence of prevalent drug dealing in a neighborhood invariably leads to an increase of other various crimes like robberies and theft," said District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis. "Working with SDPD, we were able to respond to the community's concerns and take a significant criminal element off the streets."

San Diego police Chief Shelley Zimmerman said the joint operation has made the neighborhood safer.

"Competition between these dealers over control of the drug trade, combined with criminal street gang influence, was creating a dangerous environment for the entire community," the police chief said.

San Diego police worked with the District Attorney's Office to secure arrest warrants for suspected drug dealers and facilitators operating in the East Village area. After a weeklong grand jury proceeding, 22 indictments against a total of 31 defendants were handed down.

As of Thursday, 26 of the 31 defendants had been arrested and were in various stages of prosecution. Twenty defendants have pleaded guilty and are due to be sentenced next month.

Charges against the defendants include sales of controlled substances. Depending on the defendant's criminal record, penalties could include probation, drug diversion, local custody or state prison.