There are seven people who won't be selling drugs any time soon in the city of Dunkirk. They were arrested over the last week in a combined effort of the city's Police Department, Fredonia police and the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force.
Dunkirk Police Chief David Ortolano announced the pickup Monday.
"As with all our drug-related arrests, these are very long, ongoing investigations that sometimes can take several months, up to six months, to culminate, but we're very happy," he said. "This is a big hit for us, to be able to take seven people off our streets here in Dunkirk."
Two were arrested on warrants signed by Dunkirk City Court Judge Walter Drag; Bobby M. Ross, 25, of 14 Webster St., and Clarence T. Curtis, 63, of 723 S. Main St. Both were charged with two Class B felonies, criminal possession of a controlled substance third degree and criminal sale of a controlled substance third degree.
The other five were hauled in after Chautauqua County grand jury indictments were issued.
Noel Rodriguez, 31, of 121 Maple Ave. was charged with two Class B felonies on two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance.
Sharalton L. Wilson, 29, of 753 Deer St. was charged with one count of criminal sale of a controlled substance, also a Class B felony. Wilson was also charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fourth degree, a Class C felony, when he was found to be in possession of cocaine at the time of his arrest. Wilson also faces an unlawful possession of marijuana charge.
Brian Montanez, 22, of 92 King St. was arraigned on two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree. Officers did not have to look too hard for Montanez, he was already incarcerated on unrelated charges.
Walter S. Duprey, 27, of 156 W. Second St. was arraigned on criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, a Class D felony and criminal sale in the fourth degree, a Class C felony. Duprey was also already behind bars at the time of his arraignment.
Zachary J. Perkins, 20, of Buffalo was arraigned on two counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance, both Class B felonies. Perkins was also already behind bars on unrelated charges.
"My hat's off to our task force people and also, this is a coordinated effort with our daily patrol officers," Ortolano explained about the arrests. "They're out there cultivating the information and relaying names and people and places and what's going on in the community in certain neighborhoods, back to our detectives and drug task force officers, who are then going back out and surveilling these areas and watching these people and places. So it's kind of a culminated effort of everybody involved to make this happen."
Ortolano was asked if the pickups were part of a larger operation, given the recent arrests in Buffalo and elsewhere.
"This was on our own. There's no doubt some of the trafficking we get through here to the other end of the county, to the south end of the county, comes out of the Buffalo area," he replied. "That area there we get a lot of traffic from Buffalo through Dunkirk that is related to drug activity and we do coordinate with other agencies.
"Specifically, within our county we do a lot of coordination. ... We work with folks out of Buffalo and DEA too on cases, but these here were cases that were originated just from work from our people here."
Ortolano said it was clear from talking to his officers involved in the arrests, that the public's input is important.
"They may think it might be something minor, it really doesn't mean a lot. I know a lot of times people will call and give the information and then a couple of months go by and they don't see anything happen and they think we're not doing anything but we do investigate these," he explained. "Sometimes they pan out, sometimes they don't, but we do take all this information and it is very important for the people in the community, we can't do it without them and we need their help.
"We need them to fight this in their neighborhoods. We need them to work with us and come forward and be able to get involved and be willing to step up and help us out. We do need the help of the community, there's no questioning that."
The chief was asked what should people be looking for in their neighborhoods.
"A lot of activity coming and going from a certain place, or even if it's on a certain street corner or in front of a business or an alleyway or something like that. People that come and stay a few minutes and leave," Ortolano replied. "That type of activity that just doesn't seem right for that neighborhood.
"Or if you see something like all of a sudden at seven o'clock on a certain night the street's absolutely quiet and all of a sudden you get seven or eight visits, quick in and out, quick in and out, or if it's in front of the house or on a sidewalk or something like that. Those are the things to look for.
"I don't want anybody to put themselves in harm's way or jeopardize their safety; but if you can get plate numbers or descriptions, or things of that sort, they do help us out."
Ortolano was asked if there were ongoing investigations.
"Absolutely, this is something we do every day. It's a priority for the department, it's a priority for this community," he replied. "I know I've said this 100 times before, narcotics and drug activity is a catalyst for vehicle break-ins, house break-ins, assaults."
Weapons are part of the danger officers face, according to Ortolano.
"More and more nowadays we're running these people that we're arresting for these drug-related offenses and we're coming across weapons now. It's more prevalent than it has been in years past," he said. "It's an issue that's a priority for the department. It's a priority for the community.
"As I've said before, we're going to pursue them to every corner of this city that we can and let them know we don't want them here. And we're going to do whatever we can to get rid of them."
The danger Ortolano mentions may not have been readily evidenced locally, but it's a nationwide problem. According to the chief, in the year 2010 there was a 37 percent increase in officers killed in the line of duty nationwide. In addition, from Jan. 1 through Feb. 17 of this year, 26 law enforcement personnel have been killed in the line of duty.
"It just seems that the makeup of our society now, they just don't have any respect and they just don't care any more, even for law or law enforcement," Ortolano said. "It's tough out there, no questions asked. So hats off to our people in this community and every community across this country who go out there every day and never know if they're going to have to pay that ultimate sacrifice to protect and serve."