What to Know
- Philly's district attorney, Larry Krasner, announced the arrests of 57 people in a crackdown on drug dealers in Kensington.
- The arrests targeted the Alameda Drug Trafficking Organization, which sold fentanyl, heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine in the neighborhood.
- Kensington has been ravaged by drug addiction, despite the city's efforts. Philadelphia declared a 'neighborhood emergency' there this week.
More than 57 people have been arrested and charged with being part of a $5 million-per-year ring that piped drugs into the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, which has been hit so hard by drug sales and addiction that Philadelphia's mayor declared a disaster there Wednesday.
The people arrested are part of the Alameda Drug Trafficking Organization, District Attorney Larry Krasner said Thursday. They range from street dealers to people who controlled the enterprise, and they are charged with selling fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine and other drugs.
Three of the drug organization's leaders face 689 drug and gun charges. The sweeps also seized almost 2 kilograms of cocaine, more than a kilogram of crack cocaine and almost 4 kilograms of heroin.
The investigation centered on the intersection of Kip and Cambria streets in Kensington, one of the epicenters of Philadelphia's drug crisis.
In the year that ended July 1, 2018, more than 300 people within a four-block radius of the intersection were hospitalized — about 75 percent of those cases were overdoses. More than 700 people there were arrested in that same year.
In the larger neighborhood, the number of people experiencing homelessness has doubled in a year, which city officials also say is a result of drug addiction.
The city has tried to help. Workers have cleaned out encampments, opened shelters and handed out doses of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone to community groups.
But officials say it's a losing battle. "We certainly recognize that things have gotten worse, that the neighborhood is under siege," Brian Abernathy, Philadelphia's first deputy managing director, told Philly.com. "People are suffering. We have to do better, and we're exploring new approaches. We expect to have something soon."
Mayor Jim Kenney's executive order declaring a neighborhood disaster will allow the Office of Emergency Management to create an emergency operations center there, Philadelphia magazine reported. And it will create a task force —which every city agency is required to assist when needed — so that the problem can be addressed from multiple angles.
Community leaders praised Thursday's arrest as an important part of that effort.
"We work constantly to relieve our residents and neighborhoods of the stress, fear, and violence brought on and worsened by the opioid crisis," said Maria D. Quiñones Sánchez, who represents the neighborhood on City Council. "While our work is often behind the scenes, it is determined, and we will not stop.”