To some, it was a waste of scarce and precious police resources. In what could be a metaphor for the plight of Albuquerque, the May 9 reverse sting drug operation by Albuquerque police officers resulted in the arrest of eight low-level drug users and homeless people, $23.10 in cash, a computer tablet, cell phone, police radio, jacket and colic medicine. For that, police deployed around 15 to 20 officers and support staff for the operation near Central and Pennsylvania Northeast. And considering all the other support services connected with the operation, the reverse sting probably cost taxpayers between $5,000 and $10,000, experts said. This piece originally appeared in the ABQ Free Press.
They didn’t exactly nab a bunch of drug kingpins. Actually, it was far from it. The reverse sting drug operation the Albuquerque Police Department engaged in earlier this month netted seven arrests of low-level drug users—some of them transients—and a total of $23.10, a tablet computer, cell phone, police radio, jacket and some colic medicine. The people who were arrested traded whatever little money they had and personal belongings for the drugs. The operation, which was authorized by a state court judge, has drawn criticism community members and the New Mexico Public Defender’s Office, who said that going after low-level drug users is a waste of time and precious police resources.
Bernalillo County District Attorney Kari Brandenburg said Wednesday that her office never signed off on, or consulted with the Albuquerque Police Department on a court-approved affidavit that gives APD permission to sell heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines to people and then arrest them on drug charges. An APD detective apparently presented the affidavit to a state District Court judge on Feb. 23. The affidavit said it was being presented in conjunction with the DA’s Office. “Comes now the State of New Mexico, through its Assistant District Attorney and Affiant Detective Marc Clingenpeel,” the affidavit said.