Police and federal agents said Wednesday they're confident that one of Charlotte's rougher streets is safer after they picked up suspects in an undercover drug operation that targeted the Sugar Creek corridor.
Officers and agents teamed up to arrest a string of alleged drug dealers who had operated along Sugar Creek Road and Interstate 85 in north Charlotte over the last six months.
By 1 p.m., agents arrested 20 suspects, many of them face both drug and gun charges, and could face minimum sentences of five years or more in prison.
The U.S. attorney said the undercover operation started after police noticed a jump in violent crime in the area. "We've noticed it start to creep up again so we want to make sure the criminals don't get a foothold again," U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said in a news conference.
Tompkins said that unlike other drug sweeps, this one did not focus on gang activity but on street level drug dealers who have used hotels and motels along Sugar Creek Road to do their business, often with guns.
The operation included Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department vice and patrol officers who work the North Tryon division that includes the Sugar Creek corridor.
"Today's law enforcement operation in the Interstate 85 corridor area should send the clearest message possible," Tompkins said. "As long as those individuals insist on returning here, our law enforcement partners will continue to identify you and put you behind bars."
Some people who live and work in the area said it is good news.
"I've had people approach me and ask me all kinds of questions, who want to sell me crack and stuff," said Clay Flynn.
That's what Capt. Rob Dance who supervises CMPD's North Tryon Division hopes the sweep will change. "I think it's going to have a significant impact," Dance said.
He said they are also going after some of the hotels where those suspects allegedly did business.
"There are a number of civil injunctions on hotels currently and we're seeking more as we speak so we're hoping that combination is going to have a long-term effect on that corridor up there," Dance said.