In an effort to crack down on crime in Coppin Heights, a West Baltimore neighborhood where, according to police, there have been 24 shootings since 2010, a state circuit court grand jury Sept.11 indicted nine local residents on drug conspiracy charges.
On Sept. 11, State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein and Police Commissioner Anthony Batts announced the indictment of members of a “highly organized” conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine.
“These kind of narcotics operations in open-air areas like this will bring violence with them,” Bernstein told the AFRO. ”These narcotics operations often involve perpetuators of violence and then conversely they are often the targets of violence, sadly innocent people get caught in the crossfire.”
Bernstein told the AFRO that the roots of the conspiracy were laid last year with the conviction on drug charges of Danny Fisher and Keith Thomas, men who, he said were “responsible for controlling the open-air distribution network in the Coppin Heights neighborhood.”
Fisher and Thomas were sentenced to 15 years in prison. Bernstein said after the pair left the area, two of the nine newly indicted persons took over the territory.
According to Det. Jeremy Silbert, police spokesperson, since 2010 there have been 24 shootings in the Coppin Heights area. “There were 11 fatalities and 13 non-fatal shootings.”
“In that particular neighborhood, drugs have been sold both day and night,” Silbert said.
Police have been patrolling the 1600 to 1700 blocks of Ruxton Avenue where they said most of the drug dealing took place.
Silbert said, “Our department has worked diligently to collect enough evidence not only to arrest, but also to present a strong enough case to convict the individuals.”
The indictment included Karon Shaw, 20; Mingo Watson, 32; Montrel Smith, 19; Franklin Henderson, 24; and Monica Rimmer, 49, all of Baltimore.
Bernstein said, “the evidence was developed was over a five-week period.”
Bernstein told the AFRO investigations like this sometimes take months—years. “The fact that we were able to move so quickly dismantling what we believe to be a major drug organization in the area, that has been linked to both historic and recent violence in the area, is a huge accomplishment.”
He said all nine are indicted for conspiracy to distribute heroin and cocaine as well as the actual distribution of heroin and cocaine.
“We thought this particular incident is reflective of what happens when the police and people from the state’s attorneys’ office are working closely together using a variety of investigative techniques to obtain the evidence to charge these people in a very short period of time,” he said.
Shaw, Watson, Smith, Henderson and Rimmer are in custody on state charges. The four others in the indictment are still at large and their names won’t be released until they have been taken into custody, police said.
“We shut this down so quickly,” Bernstein told the AFRO. “No one in the city should have to look out their window and see people dealing drugs or have to dodge drug dealers to go to school, church or work.”
Bernstein commended the Major Investigations Unit (MIU) and the Special Enforcements Division on their investigation in this case. He said the case involved a lot of covert operation, controlled purchases of narcotics and witness testimony.
“We think this case is a good step in a positive direction in ridding neighborhoods like Coppin Heights of drug dealing,” he said.
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