More than 50 arrested in drug ring bust

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Three top members of a well-known Philadelphia drug trafficking organization are facing 689 charges after a collaborative enforcement effort dismantled the heroin, fentanyl and cocaine ring, the city’s top prosecutor announced Thursday.

District Attorney Larry Krasner said 57 people have been arrested from the Alameda drug organization that targeted the Kensington neighborhood, the epicenter of Philadelphia’s opioid epidemic. The arrests began in July with a series of raids and include 35 suspects currently in custody ranging from street dealers to people who controlled the enterprise, Krasner said. There have been warrants issued for 22 others.

The investigation centered around 16 properties at a well-known intersection in the hard-hit neighborhood. There were more than 300 medical calls to the four-block area between July 2017 and July 2018 — 75 percent of which were for overdoses.

The drug trafficking organization brought in more than $5 million in drug revenue a year “from the pain and misery that comes from drug and opioid addiction,” Krasner said.

He said the arrests are a direct result of his emphasis of going after the “big fish” and not minor drug offenders.

Councilwoman Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, whose district includes Kensington, called the arrests a “stunning success” by law enforcement.

“We work constantly to relieve our residents and neighborhoods of the stress, fear and violence brought on and worsened by the opioid crisis,” she said at a press conference.

In an effort to combat skyrocketing overdose rates, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials announced in January they would support a private entity operating and funding safe injection sites. Philadelphia has the highest opioid death rate of any large U.S. city, with more than 1,200 fatal overdoses in 2017.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell joined the effort to open Philadelphia’s, and possibly the nation’s, first supervised drug injection site, a place where people can use drugs under medical supervision and get overdose prevention.

The 74-year-old Rendell said Wednesday he has joined the board of the nonprofit Safehouse, which is raising money to open a safe injection site despite federal and state laws that prohibit them.

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