‘Open-air drug market’ investigation in San Diego’s East Village leads to 51 arrests: DA

Grand juries indicted 51 people this week for charges ranging from drug sales to firearms violations at an East Village “open-air drug market” that authorities say was controlled by gangs.

The accusations arise from an examination into the neighborhood around 16th and K streets, where officials say police were called out over 56,000 times over a two-year period, roughly 6,200 of which were for “violent acts” like shootings, stabbings, and assaults.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, which announced the indictments on Thursday, stated that gang members who controlled the drug market also conducted countersurveillance on officers.

A year-long operation into the market comprised undercover investigators purchasing drugs from local dealers, and a grand jury was presented with more than three weeks’ worth of evidence about extensive drug transactions, which the D.A.’s Office claimed occurred “at all times of day and night.”

“Calls for service and resident complaints in this area showed that something had to be done,” San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit said. “This operation represents more than a year of dedicated work by investigators and prosecutors to disrupt the history of drugs and violence that plagued the East Village community … will keep a close watch on this area to maintain the great progress we’ve made.”

The D.A.’s Office said 27 of the defendants were apprehended during a day-long sweep on Tuesday that involved over 100 officers. If convicted, some defendants face up to a year in prison, while others risk life in prison, depending on their charges and prior records.

“I refuse to allow San Diego streets to turn into open-air drug markets controlled by gangs like you see in other areas of the country,” Summer Stephan, the deputy district attorney for San Diego County, said. “When a criminal street gang controls an entire neighborhood and specifically a known intersection, every person who drives, walks, does business or runs errands in the area is victimized.”

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