Sarasota Police operation focused on street-level drug dealers

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SARASOTA - Police announced the results of Operation Cracked Sidewalk on Thursday, during which police arrested a total of 39 people over the course of a 5-month long operation. Chief Bernadette DiPino says the implementation was the first of its kind.

The operation targeted street-level drug dealers under the implementation of the Drug Market Intervention plan -- the DMI.

The DMI area was selected based on statistics of where the most complaints of narcotics sales and narcotics arrests occur. This operation focused on an area between Leon Avenue and North Washington Boulevard, and 21st Street to 32nd Street.

The 39 people arrested sold drugs to undercover detectives during the operation. And as part of the DMI plan, six have been selected for deferred prosecution -- a first for the Sarasota Police Department.

“What this is, is really community policing. This is about looking at creative ways to solve problems. And it's not just about arresting people to resolve crime and crime-related issues, this is a different approach,” said Chief DiPino. “But giving people an opportunity to turn their life around with the help of the citizens in this room and the community, to help so they don't go to jail. Because jail's not always the best place for these types of violations.”

The six who were selected for deferred prosecution were selected based on their criminal history. None of them are violent offenders.

However, Chief DiPino says there's a direct correlation between the drug crimes and the violence we're seeing in our community, and the police department is going after the drug dealers at all levels.