WILKES-BARRE — Police charged 32 people following a five-month drug investigation centering on Wilkes-Barre. At least 18 of the suspects are in custody.
City leaders say many of the alleged drug deals happened on Wilkes-Barre’s Public Square.
“The availability of parking, ease of public transportation, and attractive venues that bring people into our city to live and work are the very things that make public square a target for drug activity,” said Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton.
The investigation, called ‘Operation Square Deal,’ was started by Wilkes-Barre patrol officers. They had help from other agencies. Police say the suspects now face felony drug charges and they’ve taken small amounts of heroin, Xanax and other drugs off the street.
The manager of the Barnes and Noble book store in Public Square says he’s glad to see the arrests.
“Very impressed, I think I mentioned before that I think I can just feel a difference walking over here from my store to the police department today from public square,” said Barnes and Noble manager John Chaump.
The number of hawk-eye cameras that can be found the Wilkes-Barre area is what police say made this operation so successful.
“I guess it wasn`t publicized enough that some of these people that they didn`t realize that we have an extensive camera system. Whatever they did would be on camera,” said Wilkes-Barre Police Chief Gerard Dessoye.
The cameras caught many of the suspected drug deals as they happened, including some in school zones.
Some people who frequent Public Square these arrests will bring attention to the problem.
“Then people will say they didn`t realize there was that many, I don`t. I come up here safely every day, in fact a lot of my friends say ‘please don`t go over there,'” said Jean Cawley of Kingston.
“It makes me happy, but I don`t know if it will solve the problem, because there`s just too much of it going on. It`s everywhere,” said Linda Magistro of Wilkes-Barre.
Wilkes-Barre police say they will continue to work to round-up the last of the suspects, but word of the operation is spreading through social media and may take a little while.