MASSENA - The villages police chief said approximately two years go his staff started seeing an influx of new players in the drug trade in the community - selling prescription drugs and heroin, driving up the crime rate and sparking an increase in violent crime as different factions battled for control of the street trade.
Chief Timmy J. Currier suggested a strong message was sent to those dealers when approxomately a hundred law enforcement agencies took to the air and ground in a raid that resulted in the arrests of approximately a dozen people allegedly involved in moving heroin and cocaine into the community.
United States Attorney Richard S. Hartunian introduced Mr. Currier as someone who understands the importance of the aggressive law enforcement but also the importance of community involvement and participation and assistance with people who are addicted to drugs, who are challenged by drug abuse.
Mr. Currier, speaking to an audience that had community members out numbering reporters by a wide margin, said, I think back about what has happened in our community over the last few years, I stand here more idealistic than ever. Knowing more than ever, problems can be fixed and issues can be resolved when good, hard working people come together, Mr. Currier began. ...Today is a great day for the good citizens of Massena. Todays actions demonstrate the resolve of your police department, your local government - Mayor (James) Hidy and the village trustees, the District Attorneys office, the St. Lawrence County Sheriffs Department, our county, state, federal law enforcement agencies, and the United States Attorneys office.
Mr. Currier pointed out that a couple years ago he and his staff recognized there was a significant drug dealing issue in the Massena community, notably with prescription drugs and heroin, something that severely impacted the crime rate and increased instances of violent crimes.
Mr. Currier also had a strong, clear message for potential drug dealers in the area.
Today should stand as a clear and bold message to those who wish to deal drugs in Massena. We will work with our partners at every level to ensure the good citizens of Massena enjoy the quality of life they deserve, Mr. Currier said. We simply refuse to allow this illegal and unsafe activity to flourish here.
Its important that we recognize that the drug problem in Massena or anywhere for that matter, is not a problem we can arrest our way out of. Enforcement, specifically arresting and holding those responsible for trafficking and conspiring to provide their product is vital and very important, but the reality is, there is a market for that product. There is a reason drug sales occur. We have people that live here in our community buying illegal drugs, Mr. Currier said.
We must continue to work hard to find ways to prevent our teenagers and young adults from becoming drug users. From improving parenting skills, enhancing childrens life skills, and giving them a reason to make safe decisions and finally, greater economic development in our area. Folks, we must do better, he added.
I truly believe there is nothing wrong with Massena that cant be fixed with what is right with Massena. Today certainly demonstrates that, Mr. Currier suggested.
Sheriff Kevin Wells emphasized the importance of the various agencies collaboration, reiterating what had been said by Mr. Hartunian and Special Agent-in-Charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) James C. Spero.
I just want to echo the comments that have already been made in the fact that inner agency cooperation is the key to law enforcement no matter where you are, Mr. Wells said. Youre not going to be a successful law enforcement agency, youre not going to be able to help your community, youre not going to be able to be part of the solution if you dont have inner agency cooperation. And one thing thats been shown to this Greater Massena community and the tri-county area here is the fact that we will, as law enforcement agencies from the federal to the state to the county to the local level, we will work together and we will be up there to provide protection for our communities.
Mr. Wells also thanked the community for their continued efforts with saying something when seeing something in terms of suspicious activity.
One Massena woman returned the sentiments of appreciation when commenting during the public comment period.
As a member of the community, I want to say thank you. When we saw and heard the helicopters we knew something good was going on, she said.
Mayor James F. Hidy also commended the work done by all of the agencies ranging from local to federal agencies.
On behalf of the village, Id like to thank everybody in here that had a part in all this. Obviously its a tough time for the village, but I can honestly say (Ive) never been more proud of a rural police department fighting urban crime and you stepped up to the plate, but with the help of everybody. Thank you very much, Mr. Hidy said.
St. Lawrence County District Attorney Nicole Duve was presenting a case to the grand jury and arrived in Massena just after the press conference had ended. Today is another important step in addressing the increasing presence of urban heroin and cocaine supply networks in northern St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. The cooperative efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, together with assistance from local citizens are the key to reclaiming our communities. I encourage the public be vigilant and to continue to help law enforcement keep our neighborhoods and our children safe and drug free, she said.
She said Thursdays raid was the result of long, on-going effort to address the drug trade and to bring peace of mind to the people in the community.
Ms. Duve said she has seen the drug trade in the region grow over the years, spread and become more violent. This is the sort of thing the people of Massena have not been accustomed to seeing, and it caused great alarm in the community. This is a wonderful day for the community of Massena, the people of St. Lawrence County.
Federal officials said they were aware the helicopters that were part of the operation caused some concern in the community on the morning of the first day of school year. We had intelligence there were certain places on our list that were going to be high risk targets. Thats why you saw air support, tactical team, James C. Spero, special agent in charge of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations Unit, Buffalo, said.
Mr. Hartunian was coy when questioned about whether the individuals that had been involved in turf wars for control of Massenas streets had ties to gang activity. Youll have to wait to see this case unfold before I comment further on that, he said.