As KRBD reported Friday, a months-long drug investigation in Ketchikan wrapped up last week, leading to charges again 12 local residents.
In an interview on Monday, Sgt. Andy Berntson gave some more details about that investigation.
Sgt. Berntson said the investigation started last fall, with a focus on street-level methamphetamine and heroin dealers.
“In cases like that, you kind of stockpile your information,” he said. “You don’t necessarily wrap it all up at once because you want to maximize those resources and see how far you can get into those different networks in town. That’s what we’ve been doing over the last handful of months and got to the point when we were ready to indict them.”
Berntson said the investigation included multiple drug buys using informants. Police also served search warrants to seize other evidence.
He said tips from the public were useful throughout the investigation. That included local business owners, as well as residents who he said were sick of seeing drug activity in their neighborhoods.
“We had some people really step up and say, ‘Hey, we’re sick of this.’ And they came forward with information or were willing to do some things,” he said. “That’s the only way you can really start to make a dent in this.”
Berntson said that while the 12 defendants were charged at around the same time, the cases weren’t necessarily connected. Some of the dozen are co-defendants, but for the most part, the people charged were not directly involved.
He said a drug investigation can lead in many different directions.
“That’s what we kind of try to do sometimes is just kind of cast a wide net and see where our resources point us and then go from there,” he said. “Just because there’s a bunch of names doesn’t always mean they’re necessarily involved together.”
When asked whether charging these 12 people will make a difference in the availability of drugs in Ketchikan, Berntson said that’s an age-old question that doesn’t really have an answer. But, the problem can’t just be ignored.
“You’re not going to stop drugs, just like you’re not going to stop any other crime from happening. You’re not going to stop assaults, you’re not going to stop DUIs because people are people and they have the ability to make the wrong choice and bad decisions,” he said. “That’s just the way we’re built. But hopefully the small things like this that we do can help in some capacity.”
And, Berntson said, often the people who benefit most from these arrests are the defendants, if convicted. Because they go to jail, where they can sober up and later have an opportunity to start again.
Here is a link to the earlier report on the 12 people charged.