Police in Sunrise, Florida have made millions by luring drug buyers from across the country to their small town. Once the buyers show up and attempt to buy cocaine in restaurants like TGI Fridays or Panera Bread, cops arrest them then confiscate their cash and belongings.
Undercover detectives in Sunrise seized millions of dollars from the stings, collectively earning over $1.2 million in overtime. One officer earned $240,000 in overtime in just three-and-a-half years.
The officers also gave cash to informants who help make the arrests. One informant alone received over $800,000 in just five years.
The stings were exposed by the Sun Sentinel in a six month investigation. The Sentinel’s comprehensive report has caused the Sunrise police department to cease the work, even though the officers had support from Mayor Michael Ryan.
The Sun Sentinel reported, “Undercover officers tempt these distant buyers with special discounts, even offering cocaine on consignment and the keys to cars with hidden compartments for easy transport. In some deals, they’ve provided rides and directions to these strangers to Sunrise. This being western Broward County, not South Beach, the drama doesn’t unfold against a backdrop of fast boats, thumping nightclubs or Art Deco hotels. It’s absurdly suburban.”
Capt. Robert Voss, who oversees the Sunrise Intelligence & Narcotics Division, defended the cocaine stings. He said, “Our job is to put bad guys in jail, and we do a good job of it.”
Defense attorney Martin Roth from Fort Lauderdale pointed out that the work done in Sunrise an be “a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.”
He said, “Sunrise is extraordinary in the amount of cases they produce… In my view, it’s all about the money.”
The money taken from the stings usually goes towards buying new equipment for Sunrise officers like guns, computers, and training gear.
However, Sun Sentinel reporter Megan O’Matz pointed out that more than cash is often seized from the drug buyers. She said, “[Officers] can take their cars, jewelry. One fella told us a cop said, ‘Hey, I like the sunglasses you’re wearing,’ and snatched them.”
Still, what Sunrise cops were doing was not unlawful.
Joel DeFabio, an attorney from Miami, said, “Is it illegal? No.Is it improper? Not under our current law.”
About 200 people have been arrested in Sunrise as a result of the cocaine stings since 2009. Of those 200, only seven were Sunrise residents.
Do you support these means by cops to catch drug buyers? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments section below.