Police arrest 16 in sweep, update on suspects' rehab program

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A police sweep lands 16 suspected drug dealers behind bars. Last week's arrests were the second operation in the Charleston Farms neighborhood this year. Neighbors say it's making a difference, and the project has even helped rehabilitate some suspected drug dealers.

"I'm very proud of what has happened here. It just shows that the North Charleston Police Department has steadfastly maintained the position that they are going to improve the quality of life for people that live here," US Attorney Bill Nettles said.

Police and the US Attorney's Office partnered for the operation and have arrested nearly 50 suspected drug dealers this year, in two different operations.

During round one in January, police gave the non-violent, entry-level drug dealers a chance to "STAND" or "Stop and Take a New Direction." Currently four suspects are taking part in the program.

"None of them have re-offended. The progress they've made is unbelievable. If you saw these guys today compared to what they were ten months ago, it's really remarkable," Lt. Greg Gomes said.

Police say the four people in the program will soon earn GEDs, and they work full-time in construction, restaurants, and even the city public works department.

Residents say the police programs have made a difference.

"You used to go to the four way stop and they'd almost run at you trying to get in the car to see if you wanted to buy anything, or on Remount Road the prostitution was very flagrant. It's not like that now. It's a lot better," Charleston Farms Neighborhood Association President Bill Ellis said.

Police say not all suspects are given a chance to avoid jail and rehabilitate through "Project Stand."  They say the 16 people arrested last week are not eligible because of their past criminal history. During the sweep they say they recovered cocaine base, marijuana, two handguns, and cash.

North Charleston Police say they hope to bring similar operations to other neighborhoods in the city. They say to make it work; they need full cooperation from residents who live there.