When the Seattle Police Department started encountering a noticeable increase in the amount of "wafer-thin" crack on the streets, they launched an appropriately named counter-attack - "Operation Wafer-Thin." Yesterday, according to police, that operation resulted in the arrest of 21 suspected members of the Honduran drug ring.
Police describe the Honduran drug ring at the center of yesterday's sweep as "large and well-organized." They say the ring primarily conducted business along the infamous Pike/Pine corridor, well known for its longstanding issues with open-air drug dealing.
As SPD describes it, the "wafer-thin" form the crack was packaged in, which police started to see an uptick in, led to the operation.
"We were noticing, at the street level, lots of the wafer-thin types of rock cocaine," says West Precinct Captain Jim Dermody in a statement posted on the SPD Blotter blog. "The number one thing I hear from the downtown community is about open air drug dealing and drug use. We want people to feel safe downtown. When they see drug deals, they don't feel safe. That hurts everybody."
The Blotter Blog provides more details on the Honduran drug ring police say is at the root of Operation Wafer-Thin:
In May 2012, bike patrol officers, the Anti-Crime Team, and Narcotics detectives set up stings on the Honduran dealers--who often worked in teams, along with lookouts and hired muscle--and sent in undercover officers and informants to buy drugs.
According to SPD Narcotics Lieutenant Mike Kebba, detectives found that the Honduran drug ring was made up of a clever, cautious, tight-knit group of dealers, who made sure to carry smaller amounts of purer cocaine in the hopes of avoiding stiffer criminal charges. "They carry limited amounts [of cocaine] so that if they did get caught, they wouldn't be facing a huge felony," says Kebba. "It's higher quality, and you can beat a felony rap by carrying a smaller wafer, rather than a bigger rock, with less cocaine."
Police go on to say the Honduran drug ring typically had about 30 dealers working along 2nd Avenue between Union and Virginia Street, and that each of those dealers were selling wafer-thin crack in $20 increments to the tune of $1,000-$2,000 over the course of a 4-8 hour shift. Police say all together the group was likely bringing in $30,000 to $60,000 every day.