Charlottetown police estimate they seized more than $400,000 in drugs in a bust this week that was the largest operation in the force’s history.
During a news conference at the department headquarters Friday afternoon, Chief Paul Smith said the operation led to the arrest of several prolific suppliers as well as what he described as underlings.
“We believe that we put a significant dent in the supply chain right now,” he said.
The four-month investigation, known as Operation Clean Sweep, led to 38 arrests and 16 searches Thursday with Charlottetown police expecting more than 100 charges to eventually be laid.
More arrests are expected as the investigation continues.
The searches started at 3:30 a.m. Thursday and netted a variety of drugs, including cocaine, pharmaceutical opiates, methamphetamine and marijuana, as well as 11 vehicles.
Several weapons were also seized and on display to the media at the police headquarters Friday, including handguns, a rifle, a sword, a machete and a collapsible baton.
Police from Charlottetown led the investigation with help from police in Summerside and Kensington, along with the RCMP in P.E.I. and Moncton.
Smith said there are still warrants to be executed on four people, but with the investigation still ongoing, he expected more charges to come.
“We know the whereabouts of them,” the chief said.
Those who were arrested appeared before a justice of the peace Friday morning at the provincial courthouse in Charlottetown, where all but five were released until their court dates on either Feb. 26 or March 3. The remaining five will be back in court Monday for show cause hearings to determine if they should remain in custody until their cases are dealt with.
While most of the arrests were made in Charlottetown, Smith said the RCMP in Moncton picked up two people who were brought to P.E.I. Friday to appear before a justice of the peace with the rest of the accused.
Smith said the operation targeted major suppliers to the Charlottetown area and was the largest takedown in a single day for the city police, if not the entire province. It involved 70 officers at the briefing Thursday before the search and arrest warrants were executed, Smith said.
“When you look at the number of places that we had to secure and search and the individuals that were being arrested and what not it took a significant number of resources from our organization and additional resources from our policing partners.”
In an unusual move, the police notified the media about the operation once it was underway and arrests were still being made, which Smith said was done to let the community know what was happening and that there wasn’t anything to worry about.
“For the areas that we were looking to search, we had our search areas secured before it went out,” he said.
Smith said the people arrested weren’t necessarily part of a large criminal organization.
“We’re looking at people who are definitely affiliated,” he said.
Although the Charlottetown police worked with the RCMP emergency response team in one entry, Smith said there were no injuries or issues throughout the operation.
Coun. David MacDonald, who is chairman of the protective and emergency services committee, was also at the news conference and said the arrests send a message to people involved with illegal drugs in the community.
“It also sends a clear message to the community that our police are well aware of these activities that are happening in our city and they are continuing to address these activities to ensure that our city remains a great place to live and raise our families,” he said.