The Scranton Police Department has reinvigorated its street crimes unit to enhance “proactive problem-oriented policing.” The unit was disbanded in September 2014 for contract and logistical objections from the police union, but its success during 2014 led the police department to once again put three-man teams on the street.
The street crimes unit is intended to focus on patterns of criminal activity that are encouraged by neighborhood decay. In 2014, the unit seized nearly 2,000 bags of heroin with a street value ranging between $20,000 to $40,000.
On its first day back on the job, the street crimes unit stopped a car with an expired registration sticker. When the driver appeared to be acting nervously, the police asked him to get out of the car and submit to a search. According to the police, the man consented. The search revealed 123 grams of cocaine with a value of almost $15,000. The man was arrested and charged with drug-related crimes unlawful possession of a controlled substance and related drug crimes.
The street crimes unit is undoubtedly a valuable police tool in fighting drug dealing and other crimes that appear to flourish in decaying neighborhoods. However, the traffic stop described above raises some serious questions. Did the police have probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed when they asked the man to leave the vehicle? Did the police actually obtain the man’s consent to the search without using coercion? A person arrested by the street crimes unit may have numerous defenses to any charges made against him, including whether a search was reasonable or whether a confession was truly voluntary. A seasoned criminal defense attorney can identify and raise all available defenses in such a case.
Source: Scranton-Times Tribune, “Scranton police street crime unit seizes nearly $15,000 in crack,” Luke Ranker, Jan. 7, 2015