In a news conference Monday, the Durham Police Department said local, state and federal agents arrested 20 people during a 16-month undercover investigation, during which law enforcement officials purchased large amounts of crack cocaine from dealers.
"These are not the common, street drug dealers that we arrest on a regular basis," said Durham Police Chief Steve Chalmers. "These were top-level individuals. Again, as we know, as you start to deal with the drug trade, anytime you remove a high-level individual, there is already someone ready to take their place."
Police said that at least six of the individuals are known to have associated with street gangs. One suspect arrested, Derrick Brown, was previously convicted in the early 1990s of shooting a Durham police officer, authorities said.
Chalmers said the undercover operation caused a dent in the city's illegal drug businesses and sends a clear message to other drug dealers in Durham that drug trafficking would not be tolerated.
Those arrested on federal drug charges, Chalmers said, could face up to 21 years in prison if convicted.
Watch replays of the Durham Police Department's news conference on the
Tuesday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tune in to digital cable channel 256 or over the air at 5.2.
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