NEW PORT RICHEY — A Pasco County crackdown on street-level drug dealing has led to the arrest of 63 suspects, officials said Tuesday.
The arrests were made Saturday and Monday after a six-month investigation by Sheriff's Office vice and narcotics detectives. About 80 percent of the cases involve the illegal use or sale of prescription drugs, said Lt. Chuck Balderstone.
"That's a fairly alarming trend," Balderstone said.
Balderstone said the prescription drugs can be highly addictive, and people who get hooked on them develop a tolerance and need more to get high. He likened those addicts to "the modern day heroin junkie."
Officials say the seizure of prescription narcotics sold and obtained illegally in Pasco County increased by about 20 percent from the previous year.
"These drugs just happen to be the fuel that drives our crime," said Pasco Sheriff Bob White.
So far this year, more than 11,200 pills have been seized with a street value of $150,000, officials say. Detectives also seized more than $3 million in cash and 68 kilos of cocaine this year. Charges from this week's sweep include trafficking in a controlled substance, sale and possession of a controlled substance, sale and possession of marijuana, sale and possession of crack cocaine, doctor shopping and illegally having a firearm.
Not included in the latest sweep are 681 people who have been arrested this year on drug charges.
The Sheriff's Office worked with the New Port Richey Police Department in this latest sweep, but White declined to say how many deputies were involved.
"It's like telling the enemy how many soldiers you have," he said.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.