HAZLETON, Pa. - The Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office says its first deployment of the Mobile Streets Crime Unit was a success in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
The operation was backed by $2.5 million in state funds.
It's an effort that included 16 local, state, and federal agencies.
Officers seized more than 35,000 packets of heroin and made more than 100 arrests in just more than five months. Officials said they took nearly $500,000 worth of drugs off of Hazleton streets. Investigators identified more than 60 stamps of heroin in the process.
"Many of these drug dealers prosecuted so far don't have criminal records. We've given them one," said Pa State Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Officials said Operation Rising Start put a significant dent in Hazleton's heroin supply.
"Heroin dealers and users have told us there is a decrease in supply and a decrease in the purity. That means it's drying up. What that means to all of you is we have done our job," Kane said.
"Operation Rising Star begins to rise over Hazleton... Each deployment rising higher, getting stronger, and shining brighter," said Chief Frank DeAndrea Jr., Hazleton Police.
Undercover agents also confiscated weapons, jewelry and large screen televisions. Some of those items will be donated to local organizations, officials said.
Kane credited hands-on efforts for much of the operation's success.
"We are down on the ground, we are not sitting in an office somewhere. We are not think-tanking, we are not talking about concepts," Kane said.
During the ploy, undercover agents said they discovered another startling Hazleton reality.
"We identified a gang population in Hazleton. Gangs were targeting children as young as nine-years-old," Kane said.
According to Kane, at least six different gangs were identified in the Hazleton area, some of which have international ties.
The operation ended in Hazleton, but the mission will continue, officials said.
"We will take the show on the road to a new location," Kane said.
Kane hopes to have the next operation started by early Spring. The location will be decided based on trends of violence, gangs, and drug related crimes.
Allentown, PA 18102