San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan. Image from department video

A grand jury has returned indictments against more than three dozen street-level drug dealers operating a “blatant, open drug market” out of San Diego’s East Village neighborhood, many of whom were arrested after a four-month undercover operation, authorities announced Friday.

From April through August, undercover police officers made purchases of methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, oxycodone and Xanax from an array of dealers spanning a three-by-four block area east of Petco Park.

As of Friday, 32 of the 41 defendants have been arrested for various crimes that could carry prison sentences as long as 10 years. District Attorney Summer Stephan said around 70% of the defendants had prior felony records, with more than 30% of the arrested individuals convicted of serious, violent felonies, including kidnapping and attempted murder.

Methamphetamine — which Stephan said was present in the systems of more than half of people arrested for crimes in San Diego County — was most commonly seen throughout “Operation Red Beard.”

At a Friday morning news conference, officials said they received daily complaints from residents regarding the brazen sales of narcotics on East Village street corners.

“We hear from the community that they can’t walk down the street without having someone offer drugs to them,” Stephan said.

The District Attorney said the dealers mostly targeted the homeless and/or drug-addicted, while other residents were fearful the dealers may see them as witnesses or potential “snitches.”

Stephan said the operation was “significant” in putting a dent in the free flow of drugs in the neighborhood, as well as curbing drug-related violent crimes.

San Diego police Chief David Nisleit said he hoped the operation would send a message to dealers that they should be wary of selling in San Diego.

“If you’re going to come down to any part of the city and sell illicit street drugs in San Diego, I want you to be worried about who you are selling to and I want you to think twice about it,” Nisleit said.

–City News Service

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