Local police lead major drug bust in ‘Iron Triangle’
on December 24, 2009
Police this week announced a drug bust in which more than $1 million worth of cocaine was confiscated. It is one of the largest drug seizures in Richmond history.
On Dec. 17 Richmond police, working jointly with FBI agents, served two search warrants, resulting in the seizure of 10 kilos of cocaine – about 22 pounds – and five arrests, according to Sgt. Bisa French.
The warrants, which were served on locations inside the city’s notorious “Iron Triangle” area, were the culmination of a year-long joint investigation conducted by Richmond Police’s Special Investigations Unit, FBI, and WestNET, French wrote in a press release.
WestNet is a regional law enforcement collaborative operated by the state’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
All 10 kilograms of cocaine were found in a vehicle at one of the search locations.
The five arrested were identified as Francisco Cruz, 37, Jose Cruz, 35, Casimiro Cruz, 22, Edwin Garcia, 20 and Juan Alcazar, 44. They face federal indictments on drug trafficking charges.
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Rogers, good work keeping down the fort at Richmond Confidential. I hope you had a merry Christmas.
But I gotta say something about this article. Namely that you took the police figure of $1 million, and then even ran it without attribution. The fact is that this number is highly inflated.
Even if you want to allow the police their usual practice of assessing drug values at the cost per gram, as opposed to the actual wholesale value, the number is still off.
There were 10,000 grams seized. At $50 a gram, that’s half-a-million.
But the most legitimate measurement I see would be the wholesale cost of a kilogram. In other words, let’s look at how much capital this dealer could muster.
Internet research indicates at most a kilo is $35,000; but buying 10, I’d guess he’d be more in the median cost of $20,000.
Now our bust of more than $1 million worth of cocaine, suddenly becomes less of a news story if you look at it as $200,000.
Not trying to be a dick, but I see this time-and-time again in the news media, and it frustrates me.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I will say this. You may indeed be right that the police’s number is inflated. I do not know. This short news article is not the place to parse the finer details of street value estimates.
As for your cocktail-napkin calculations, I fear that they are far more questionable than the police figures. Leaving aside your “cost per gram” estimates, you give no mention whatsoever of production techniques that bulk up the quantity of the product. How much does one gram of uncut cocaine yield? Is its quantity doubled by “cutting” it with cheap additives? Tripled? Not sure. Neither are you.
So, in short, the number may be inflated. I just don’t know. Maybe I should do a big story on the city’s efforts in the war on drugs?
Of course, you don’t know either. While relying on official sources for estimates has its own drawbacks, certitude in your own inexpert estimate is much more dubious. Reporters should tread on such ground with extreme care.
Thank you again for reading and writing,
Thanks for your response.
You’re right that the actual value of the drugs is hard to nail down. And I wouldn’t try to inject my own analysis toward determining the actual value in any reporting.
But the fact that police routinely use figures based around piece-meal sales, as opposed to the actual value of drugs in hand, is clear.
If someone steals a 100-pack of something from Costco that sells for $300, I don’t believe the police look at how much the product sells for on an individual basis to elevate the crime to grand theft.
Perhaps you are correct that when cut, the value could tip above $1 million — I actually mentioned this in the original draft of my comment — but the very approach police use for these calculations, in my opinion, convey a distorted picture of the drug business, the bust, and the community as a whole.
By citing the $1 million figure without attribution, you are, in essence, doing what you rightly advise against: “Reporters should tread on such ground with extreme care.”
I think the only sensible approach in a story like this is to call on the police spokesman to explain how they came up with the $1 million figure and then summize his or her explanation with attribution.