A nine-month drug investigation resulted in more than 50 arrests and garnered more than 100 grams of crack cocaine, Lexington police announced Tuesday.
Lt. Scott Blakely, a member of the department's special investigation section and narcotics enforcement, said the investigation, known as Operation Transformation, started in October in the East End to "rid this neighborhood of illegal narcotics trafficking" and "an all-out effort to change the neighborhood."
Through the investigation, which focused on Ohio, East Fifth and East Fourth street s and Hawkins Avenue, police arrested 55 people, cited 18 others and seized 101 grams of crack cocaine during the three-part investigation, Blakely said. Six more people are named in sealed indictments, officials said.
On Thursday and Friday, 11 of 17 people were arrested on outstanding warrants in the East End in a sweep that required multiple police agencies and a helicopter that could be seen circling for hours. Police are looking for the six others.
"These transactions took place on the street, in front of the neighbors, in front of the children, and it has a direct impact on their quality of life," Blakely said. "If we can address that, then we can have an effect on that quality of life as well."
Many of those arrested were familiar faces to police — drug dealers and users who would buy and sell drugs in front of M&M Grocery, 398 East Fifth Street, police said. Imad Hamdan and Abdel Hamdan, owners of the grocery, were charged with welfare fraud for allegedly allowing patrons to use food stamps to buy cigarettes and beer. Food, including the store's stock of baby food, was outdated, police said.
Of the 55 people arrested, police released 47 names.
One of the people under investigation was Anthony Carter, who was fatally shot June 11 near Fourth and Chestnut streets. Jefferey Charles Morris is charged with murder in the death of Carter, 47, and with tampering with evidence.
Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts did not give specifics about the drug investigation involving Carter. However, she did say the majority of Operation Transformation was undercover work.
Operation Transformation built on three other investigations conducted during the past two years. Illegal drugs was the focal point of three of the four probes; fraud was the subject of the fourth, according to a news release from the mayor's office.
Since 2012, police have arrested 291 people and seized drugs with a street value of more than $615,000.
Police Chief Ronnie Bastin, Mayor Jim Gray and Urban County Councilman Chris Ford attended the announcement of the arrests.
"The message today is clear: Police are well-trained, well-equipped and well-staffed. ... They are getting criminals and illegal drugs off the streets," Gray said.
Ford, who represents the area, commended the department on the arrests but said he wanted to make sure the East End wasn't "stigmatized." He said he hoped the arrests would restore calm in the neighborhood.
"The East End is a compact urban neighborhood made up of thousands of residents," he said. "Today's information focuses on those who have, unfortunately, chosen to partake in illegal activity that's drawing down the quality of life in the East End."