Winter Park police arrested five suspects on drug charges Dec. 20 in the aftermath of a drug sweep two days earlier – the first that the city has seen in at least three years.
Defendants Willie Charles Lewis, Darrius Denard Taylor, Terryn B. Porter and Brendan Tremaine Griffin were each arrested for sale and delivery of cocaine within 1,000 feet of a place of worship. Police arrested Efrouse Ligon II on a charge of sale and delivery of cannabis within 1,000 feet of a place of worship.
There are still three outstanding arrest warrants waiting to be served, said Lt. Tom Pearson of the Winter Park Police Department.
Winter Park, Apopka, Winter Garden and Maitland police made an initial drug sweep in Winter Park on Dec. 18, with search warrants conducted at two homes at 421 Lyman Ave. and 920 Carver St. by members of the Central Florida Metro SWAT Team.
The searches resulted in the arrests of Gerald Lavert Jones, Christopher Obrien Burke, Bruce Wayne Cooper and Lashaun Falanta Bullard on cannabis charges; Dana Sutherland and Barry Edwards were charged with failure to pay child support charges; and Herbert Hall on cocaine charges.
Winter Park hasn’t seen a drug sweep in at least three years, but that doesn’t mean Winter Park isn’t wrestling with illegal drug use, said Sgt. Jamie Joyce of the Winter Park Police Department.
Winter Park Police records show that 170 suspects were arrested on drug charges in 2013.
“Drug use and drug possession is common everywhere,” Joyce said.
“Any time that drugs become entrenched into your community, it decreases the safety and decreases the way of life for those in the community.”
“It could ruin a neighborhood in no time,” said Deputy Chief Art King of the Winter Park Police Department. “When people are dealing drugs it results in other crimes too.”
“We want to keep it out of the community so it makes the community a better place.”
The 2013 numbers show a decrease compared previous years, Pearson said. New England Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and other roads in the western parts of the city once saw rampant illegal drug sales in the ’80s and ’90s. Several drug sweeps in the mid-‘90s resulted in 30 to 60 arrested suspects, including the continued pursuit of suspects after the first sweep.
The streets that once saw frequent drug activity have since quieted down though, thanks in part to continued redevelopment that’s turned the area into more of an upscale district, Pearson said.
“We used to have such an open epidemic,” Pearson said. “That epidemic has faded.”
Winter Park police are still in search of the three remaining suspects tied to the drug sweep last month.