Sarasota PD launches new initiative to fight drug dealers

SARASOTA - Sarasota Police on Thursday announced 39 arrests in conjunction with their program called Operation Cracked Sidewalk.

Six of the 39 will be chosen to go through a rehabilitation program that will allow them a chance to re-enter society, hopefully as more productive members, said Chief Bernadette DiPino.

"We're going to embrace these individuals. Because we believe they can be a great asset to our community," she said.

The others, considered violent offenders, will be jailed, police say.

Operation Cracked Sidewalk started January 30 in one portion of Sarasota with undercover officers identifying prevalent street dealers, and then a round-up was conducted in mid-June.

The new Drug Market Intervention plan breaks down the dealing at the street level, in order to disrupt the higher-ups Chief DiPino said.

"We're attacking it at every level.  We're not just attacking it at street level.  We're going to go mid, we're going to take these cases as high as we can," she said.

The entire model is based off of one that was initiated in High Point, North Carolina and one that Sarasota Police say had great effectiveness in combating prevalent drug problems.

Detective David Grant, with Sarasota PD says he administers the rehabilitation program and has a lot of hope for it.

"The hope is that we can get away from trying to arrest our way out of the problem and actually fix it at the root cause," Grant said.

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