2 arrested in East Deer drug bust
The arrest of two people on Tuesday for drug charges brought smiles to people in their East Deer neighborhood and demonstrated an attempt by police to make arrests faster.
Charlotte A. Howell, 43, and Christopher Walck, 21, were arrested in their residence at 443 Marion St.
They are accused of a drug sales conspiracy. District Judge Carolyn Bengel ordered both sent to the Allegheny County Jail in lieu of bond pending a July 23 preliminary hearing.
The bust wasn't worth much. Howell is accused of selling about 30 Vicodin and Percocet pills. They are prescription painkillers that sell on the street for about $10 a pop.
What made the bust noteworthy was the investigational strategy behind it.
Their arrests occurred during a house raid just before 6:30 a.m. by police from East Deer, Cheswick, Frazer and Springdale and agents from the state Attorney General's Drug Task Force.
The task force's new “quick hitter” strategy is to monitor two illegal drug buys and then obtain a search warrant for the residence where the sales took place. That sometimes leads to further charges, including those involving illegal guns.
The usual investigative strategy would be to monitor suspected drug activity for a sustained period and make several undercover drug buys before conducting a raid. That often takes months.
The quick hitter approach is designed to make arrests faster, said Dave Ellis, regional director for the state Attorney General's drug agents.
It can have a ripple effect with neighbors more willing to call police when they see something suspicious.
Local police are energized and push for more arrests, too, he said.
“And sometimes, the people we arrest ... become informants and lead to significant busts.”
On June 8, federal and state drug agents used the quick hitter tactic to arrest two Mount Washington suspects. They confiscated more than 75,000 heroin packets, about $100,000 in cash, stolen jewelry and a gun.
Ellis said local police chiefs are expressing interest in the expedited approach.
Bust follows complaints
About a month ago, about 40 residents complained to the East Deer commissioners about drug sales along Marion Street.
So the task force made the buys within the past three weeks. On Monday, Bengel signed a search warrant requested by East Deer Chief John Manchini.
The warrant was served on a clear summer morning at the house a block away from busy Freeport Road. At least eight officers, nearly all in SWAT-team style gear, two carrying rifles and the lead man carrying a shield, swarmed the front yard.
A flash bang device, which flashes a bright light when it explodes, awoke the neighborhood about 6:35 a.m. The raid team was inside the small house in less than a minute. Two pit bulls watched the action outside from a second-story window.
While the two suspects were being arrested, other officers searched the 2½-story, white frame house with grey trim. Two neighbors said they have watched dozens of people drive up to the suspects' house and leave after five or six minutes at all times of the day and night.
A neighbor worries about the impact on her children. She was afraid to give her name, but she stopped twice Tuesday morning to thank the police.
A neighbor said a stran-ger came to her house and discovered he was at the wrong address.
“He left and parked at that house,” she said. “He didn't seem that he was all quite there. You know what I mean?”
Officials, police laud efforts
East Deer Commissioners President Tony Taliani watched the arrests and praised police.“The task force and our officers are doing a great,” he said. “We don't want (illegal) drugs in our community.”
Frazer police Chief Terry Kuhns said the task force is a framework that helps local police maintain a daily exchange information about suspects.
“Especially with prescription drugs and heroin, we pretty much know who is selling,” Kuhns said. “These arrests will be continuing, and these individuals need to know that they will be selling drugs at their own peril.”
It was Manchini's turn to smile.
“Marion Street is a nice, quiet neighborhood,” he said. “We're paid to keep it that way.
“And, one way or another, we will.”
Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Frazer police receive state funding for more undercover patrols at Mills
- Upper Burrell officials consider changing public comment rules
- New Kensington council looks ahead to summer projects
- Vandergrift will pool its resources
- Alle-Kiski Valley businesses profit from jump in tourism
- Vermont Baptist Church warmly welcomed in New Kensington
- Oakmont hit-run probed
- Apollo targets owners who fail to maintain vacant properties
- Highlands students fired up about NYC trip
- Harrison mom, boyfriend charged in abuse of young boys
- Retired teacher pushes black history forward at Peoples Library presentation