GRIFFITH | Griffith's interim police chief sent a message as loud as a flashbang grenade early Thursday to drug dealers he believes are using his town as a "safe haven" for their illegal trade.
And if Interim Chief Matthew Moore gets his way, it won't be the last communique punctuated with a SWAT team door-ram.
Griffith, Lake Station and Northwest Regional SWAT officers raided a Griffith apartment just before dawn Thursday, closing down what they deemed an illegal marijuana-sales operation.
About 6:30 a.m., seven police vehicles and a bus carrying Northwest Regional SWAT team members surrounded the front of the apartment building at 820 N. Wheeler Ave.
Outside the front door, officers clad in helmets and bulletproof vests shouted to the occupants, demanding entry. When no response came, police detonated a flashbang grenade — a device designed for distraction that echoed a boom like a thunder clap.
A swing of a special ram battered open the door. Within 15 minutes, SWAT officers led the handcuffed apartment occupants, Carcitia "CC" Promise, 25, and Geneva Emeal Coleman, 24, out into the brisk morning air and to a waiting squad car.
A drug-sniffing German shepherd then swept the apartment.
Moore said the raid was only the beginning of long-overdue operations to go after drug dealers plying their trade in Griffith.
"For too long, drug dealers have seen Griffith as a safe haven for their activity," Moore said. "We're putting an end to that."
Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, who observed the raid, said previous town police administrations have been too soft on illicit drug activity.
And with a department mired in recent controversy with the demotion earlier this year of its former police chief and its second-in-command, Ryfa said Thursday's raid was a morale-booster for town officers who want to get tough on crime.
"This is a tremendous step in the right direction," Ryfa said. "Morale among the officers is now on the rise. They want to do their jobs and go out and fight the bad guys."
Moore, who is six weeks into his role as interim chief, said he coordinated Thursday's raid as a first step in changing the town's image as a haven for drug dealers.
Moore said police seized marijuana, an undisclosed amount of cash — some of which were bills used in the controlled buys of marijuana from Promise, drug paraphernalia, drug packaging material and scales used for weighing the drug.
Moore said Promise will face two counts of felony marijuana dealing and one felony charge of maintaining a common nuisance. Coleman will face a felony charge of maintaining a common nuisance, Moore said.
Investigators began targeting Promise's drug operation in recent weeks, using undercover personnel to perform controlled purchases of about 63 grams of marijuana from her, Moore said.
Moore, who previously has worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, said he also contacted Lake Station Police Chief Kevin Garber, whose narcotics team and K-9 unit assisted in the investigation and raid.
Moore said for at least the past 14 years, the town has lacked a coordinated and aggressive approach to tackling drug crimes, which often contribute to shootings and other violence within town borders.
"This is just the start of more operations to come," Moore said.