Saturday, March 05, 2005

BIG undercover drug sting in Fort Bend county

The Houston Chronicle yesterday had this enticing blurb:

Thirty-six people were arrested Wednesday in Fort Bend County on drug charges stemming from a four-month undercover investigation.

Those arrested are accused of dealing crack to undercover officers, Sheriff's spokeswoman Jeannie Gage said. The investigation led to 128 sealed felony indictments issued against 56 people.

Fort Bend County is next door to Harris County (Houston), and is part of the Harris County drug task force, though the blurb gave no indication whether this was a task force bust. It did mention, though, that the drugs were sold to undercover cops, not to some snitch.

It's hard to imagine buying drugs from 56 different dealers, isn't it? I mean, imagine how many drug users there'd have to be in Fort Bend County to keep that many dealers in business. If it were true, the streets would have to be lined with junkies like a shooting gallery. I'll admit, I haven't been there in a couple of years, but I hadn't heard the place had let itself go that badly.

Or, it might not be so bad. Instead, I'd wager, the notion that many of these folks are drug dealers is just a legal fiction, though I won't be surprised if a few of them were actually busted with signficant weight. The usual M.O. in these investigations, just like in the Tulia case, is for an undercover officer or snitch to befriend a group of addicts, then flash around "buy money" to convince his new friends to purchase drugs on his behalf. If they do, whether for a cut or just from friendship, then they're part of a transaction, not just a possession case. Using that strategy, it's not hard for undercover drug cops to rack up these kind of big numbers; otherwise it's almost impossible to imagine. Not quite as impressive as the 72 people busted in tiny Palestine last fall, but 56 is an awful lot of folks.

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