Big drug sweeps in California may look like a flurry of aggressive government activity, but in reality, just like the war against drugs in general, such operations may have very little long-term anti-drug impact. That may be true about a recent sweep in Salinas, but it's too early to make any conclusions about the events. The operation took place in an area of Salinas that the authorities called Chinatown, although none of those arrested for drug trafficking and other crimes had names that are even remotely Chinese in origin.
Authorities said that the Chinatown area was a hotbed of gang and drug activities, and that they were focusing on a specified street gang. They reported arresting 12 people while serving seven search warrants in five separate locations. The charges included drug trafficking, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon , homicide and prostitution. During the raids, observers and residents compared Salinas to an armed military camp.
Despite having search warrants, police were reportedly going through parking lots and checking inside and underneath cars. If that report is true, there may be a lot of complaints and ruffled feathers before the clouds settle, especially since it is generally unconstitutional to randomly enter and search private vehicles without reasonable cause. One resident reportedly criticized the operation for picking on the homeless and those with no money, while another resident said that he did feel more protected.
One of the problems with widespread sweeps is that, despite some legitimate arrests for drug crimes and drug trafficking, there is a greater likelihood of an innocent bystander or family member being arrested by mistake. Additionally, no one has ever proved that any particular high-profile drug raid has had a long-term impact in reducing the flow of drugs in and out of a community. That is why there is a general trend developing in California law enforcement communities, and in other states, that is beginning to recognize the value of rehabilitating drug addicts and providing programs to cut off the demand for drugs.
Source: kionrightnow.com, "Search warrants bring heavy police presence during state DOJ operation", Jake Reiner, Feb. 13, 2015