Police arrest 13 in drug bust in Heartside area, 7 suspects still wanted

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A three month investigation resulted in the arrest of 13 people in connection to illegal drug sales in Grand Rapids' Heartside area.

On Thursday police issued 20 warrants for suspects who they say were involved with selling the drugs.

The investigation took place in the Heartside area, which historically has had a problem with street level narcotics sales, according to officials.

The Heartside area is known in the community for its outreach programs for individuals needing assistance to overcome addiction.

Business owners and residents say they are happy to hear the news and hope it makes a big impact.

Adam Bird not only lives in the area, he owns Bird and Bird Studios.

"We've had a couple of people who said they were a little uncomfortable with the area," Bird said.

Just recently, Bird says he's noticed an increased police presence in the area.

"Yesterday or the day before I counted, I think, 12 police cars ringed around the block," Bird said.

Within two days, Grand Rapids police arrested 13 men, 12 of whom were arrested for supposedly selling cocaine and one who was arrested for selling marijuana.

"They did an undercover operation," said Sgt. Cathy Williams of Grand Rapids Police. "It lasted three months where they would go in all hours of the day and night and try to obtain sales from these drug dealers."

Sgt. Williams says the operation was a big deal and will have a big impact.

"We had 20 felony warrants all involving illegal drugs," Williams said. "Thirteen of those 20 have been arrested so there are still seven subjects out there with felony warrants for their arrest."

Williams says the area is frequented by people in need of social services and who are especially vulnerable. She says it's a population easily preyed on by drug dealers.

"This area downtown has a concentrated vulnerable population," Williams said. "There are multiple social services down here, those services are concentrated as well, so when you have drug dealers that are preying on vulnerable, that prohibits them from obtaining those social services they do desperately need. By trying to eliminate those drug dealers, those people have more of an opportunity to get those social services that they need."

Business owners and residents of the area, like Adam Bird, have built relationships with the people living and working nearby and are happy to see these changes.

"It's really nice to see the police being so proactive on this and I think it's going to make a change probably over the spring and summer as the weather warms up for no other reason than anybody who wants to do business in that way is going to know that the department is being proactive on it," Bird said. "I think that is going to exercise as a deterrent."

Sgt. Williams says the operation sends a strong message.

"The message that we want to send, especially to these people that are participating in the criminal activity, is that we're not going to stand for that," Williams said. "The police department won't stand for that, the residents, the businesses, the people that visit downtown, we're not going to stand for that. We'll do this again or we'll go at it from a different angle if we need to."

With seven outstanding warrants, police are asking the Heartside community to come together to assist in their continued effort to make the neighborhood a safer place for residents and visitors of the city.

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