GALVESTON — Authorities on Tuesday arrested 14 people on felony drug charges after a long investigation into what police said is a growing cocaine and methamphetamine problem in Galveston.
The seven-month narcotics investigation resulted in 21 indictments, police said. Arrest warrants have been issued for five Galveston men who were not detained in a police sweep Tuesday, said Sgt. Rene Vela of the police department’s vice and narcotics division. One of the men was indicted on two separate drug charges.
The indictments follow an investigation that began in January with help from the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Division, Vela said. Using undercover officers, recording devices and video cameras, police conducted “controlled buys” from suspected drug dealers throughout the city, he said.
The arrests were not concentrated in one particular area, and most of the charges pertain to the delivery of cocaine, with two indictments issued for the distribution of methamphetamine.
Vela said it was the first time he’d seen indictments issued in Galveston for the distribution of methamphetamines, which he said was a sign the dangerous and highly addictive drug was becoming more widespread.
“We’ve seen one of these suspects go from dealing marijuana, to pills, to cocaine, to methamphetamines,” Vela said.
Some of the charged have gang affiliations or connections to drug traffickers in Mexico, where the vast majority of methamphetamine found in the U.S. is produced, he said.
Local police work with the Drug Enforcement Administration and federal authorities to try to stem the tide of methamphetamine coming into the country, and making an impact on the island requires lengthy undercover operations to get inside the “subculture” of suspected drug dealers, he said.
The 21 indictments issued in Galveston have an impact on the distribution of drugs on the island, but police face an uphill battle, Vela said.
“It’s like trying to empty the ocean with a cup,” he said.
Police Chief Henry Porretto said officers are concerned about the spread of methamphetamine in particular, describing it as a “challenge we’re trying to keep from progressing.”
“We’re worried about it permeating the neighborhoods,” he said. “Once it becomes prolific in lower socio-economic neighborhoods, there will no longer be any demographic lines on where it is.”
The narcotics investigation in Galveston was conducted with assistance from the DEA, Galveston County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Marshals Service and University of Texas Medical Branch Police Department, according to a statement from the department.
The indictments on the island follow a warrant sweep in Dickinson last week by the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. About two dozen county residents face drug charges stemming from a yearlong undercover investigation at an area known as “The Yard” in Dickinson.
Arrested this week
Junius Shinette, 23
Bruce E. Dwyer, 50
Rochawn Davis, 39
Matthew Lannholm, 32
Jerrod R. Franklin, 25
Lacy Victoria, 48
Dmitri L. Davis, 24
Patrick Herrera, 26
Wesley Durant, 26
Mary Morgan, 52
Omar Lopez, 19
Kendal Applin, 25
Edna Johnson, 47
William H. Canada, 32
Bruce E. Dwyer, 50
Jerrod E. Ross, 24
Wequanjalo Kinchen, 42
Harold Dergin, 50
Joshua Finister, 20
Christopher Hall, 29