After the arrest of alleged cocaine distributor Alex Gomez earlier this year, it appeared 33-year-old Toborus Dontay Cunningham was poised to step into his place as a major drug trafficker in north Sarasota and Manatee counties. He won't get that chance.
Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino announced the arrest of Cunningham and 23 others Friday, in the second phase of "Operation SRQ Cartel II," which ended last month. The Drug Enforcement Agency, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office partnered with SPD in the two-year operation aimed at disrupting the hierarchy of drug dealers in the Sarasota area.
In total, authorities arrested 33 suspects, five of who who were federally indicted by the DEA, and seized 14 kilos of cocaine, which is worth more than $1 million at the street level, according to Sarasota Police Lt. Pat Ledwith. Officers also confiscated five vehicles, seven firearms and more than $100,000 in cash — mostly in large bills.
Police used surveillance, undercover drug buys, wire-tapping and nine search warrants during the investigation.
"It's important to recognize it's supply and demand," DiPino said. "If we go after supply, the demand is going to get thinner and thinner."
And a majority of other area crimes, such as robberies, are connected to drug sales, DiPino said.
Gillespie Park Neighborhood Association President Linda Holland said the partnership between neighborhoods and SPD is important in keeping drug dealing out of North Sarasota neighborhoods, and DiPino encouraged residents to continue to report suspicious activity.
Representatives from the DEA said they were still tracing the source of the drugs.
"I'm not naive enough to think that we eliminated drug sales in the two-county area of this operation," Ledwith said. "I think we put a dent in it — I think we disrupted it pretty significantly."
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- Sarasota Police Chief DiPino, celebrating the successful close of the two year "Operation SRQ Cartel II" said:
"It's important to recognize it's supply and demand," 'If we go after supply, the demand will get thinner and thinner."
Sad to say, it ain't necessarily so. My observation is that the opposite is true: a reduction in the amount of drugs available will not and never has aided in reducing the demand. If it did Prohibition would have been a great success.
Addiction is an emotional and physical disease that does not quit because it is harder to find the drug it needs. Difficult as it may be for some to believe, the need for a drug, including alcohol, is not a spigot that can be turned on and off at will. A reduction in supply but steady demand can drive drug prices up and force the addict to work harder (more crime and prostitution) to get their share of whatever is left in the supply chain.
Anyone having trouble understanding this logic can look back to the housing mania of 2003/4/5 in Sarasota where supply/inventory ( homes for sale) were far fewer than the demands of buyers, causing prices to skyrocket and a bidding war to develop .Again, the short supply of homes for sale did not deter the buyer from wanting what was not there.
I am writing this in hopes that there will be an increased focus on the proper education of our officials and our community to better understand the root cause of the drug problem.
In an ideal world, straighten out the addict and watch the supply wither. Til then, congratulations again and thank you to the many involved in the success of "Operation SRQ Cartel II".
29 SILL Global Issues Seminar
2:00 pm - 4:30 pm
29 3rd annual Fashionistas for a Cause Bartending Fundraiser
30 AJC's 2015 Winter Lunch & Learn
11:30 am - 1:30 pm
30 Fish Fry
5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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