71 Arrested in operation targeting drugs, weapons, gangs

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Police said 21 people were arrested Wednesday as part of an investigation into drug sales, weapons violations and gang activity.

Numerous search warrants were served at the Las Palmas Inn near Seventh and Grand avenues about 6:30 a.m. Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson said individuals staying at the motel had been committing crimes in the area for some time.

The multi-agency investigation, dubbed "Operation Hurricane," was launched by Phoenix police officers from the South Mountain Precinct and Gang Enforcement Unit, Thompson said.

Police said they have received 245 calls for service at the 48-room motel since October, which is when they first contacted management.

"Management was contacted by the police and told that the criminal element was living in and utilizing their facility as a base of operations, but nothing changed," Thompson said at a press conference Wednesday.

Police said a total of 71 people have been arrested and more arrests are possible.

The owner, the manager, and several employees were taken into custody. Police said the owner is cooperating.

"You can always tell there's a few things that are going on but you never know to what level," said Brandon Hooper, who works at the nearby AJS Auto Parts.

According to police, six gangs have been using the motel as a home base for selling methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin.

"We have the highest population of homeless individuals within the state residing within less than a mile of this location, and it's unfortunate but those are the individuals that drug dealers like to prey upon," said Phoenix Police Sgt. Brian Freudenthal.

In addition to drugs, the searches of 11 rooms Wednesday netted a sawed off shotgun, an assault rifle, and several handguns -- one of which was stolen, according to Thompson.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety's gang task force, Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Maricopa County Adult Probation, and U.S. Postal Inspector's Office are also involved in the operation.

"I think it's fantastic they're cleaning up the area, and that's huge to us," said Jerry Conand, whose business has operated downtown since 1934. "Now when people see this they know that they're cleaning up downtown Phoenix. People are going to be safer, so it will help us."