Newtown community relieved after drug arrests

ABC7 News at 6pm
Published: Aug. 9, 2022 at 8:57 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:34 AM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - After a group of men were arrested this week and charged with selling drugs from a parking lot in Newtown, residents in the community are breathing a sigh of relief.

“It’s a real problem and people just need to know how to solve issues,” said Valerie Buchand, a Newtown resident and activist. “The guns and stuff need to come off the street, but they need to find the suppliers.”

During an investigation that lasted months, detectives from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office identified eight people who they say sold fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine from in the parking lot of the Purple Store, near the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Way and Colson Avenue. Six have been arrested; two are still at large.

The sheriff’s office says collectively, the eight suspects have 131 prior felony charges with 76 convictions and 112 previous misdemeanor charges with 47 convictions.

Pastor Danny Preston of nearby Mount Calvary First Baptist Church, says this is a step in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go.

“There’s just not illegal activity here in Newtown, it’s illegal activity everywhere,” said Preston. “There’s probably just as much illegal drug activity over on Proctor and Bee Ridge.”

The Purple Store is across the street from a library and near churches, as well as areas where children gather, including a school and a recreation center.

“The biggest thing is for us to get involved, and the people who are concerned about the community should be involved,” said Preston.

ABC7 spoke with a worker inside the Purple Store who did not want to be on camera. He says law enforcement did a good job getting these high-level criminals off the street.

“Every time something gets taken off the street, you feel a little bit better,” said Buchand.

Law enforcement has increased their presence in the Newtown section of the city; deputies could be seen outside the store on Tuesday and residents say they hope it continues.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is continuing with their investigation.

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