Nine-month drug probe in Lexington ends in 55 arrests

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Calling it a major step in dealing with a recent crime wave, Lexington Police say a nine-month investigation dubbed “Operation Transformation” resulted in 55 arrests.

The operation targeted illegal drug activity in the east end of downtown Lexington, according to police.

"This narcotics investigation has been essential in addressing the violence we have seen most recently. We find that in a majority of situations where gun violence is involved, illegal drugs have played a role," said Lexington Police Chief Ronnie Bastin.

Operation Transformation, which began last October, is a three-phase investigation, with a focus on street-level drug trafficking.

"We have taken nearly a dozen of the most prolific drug dealers, violence creators, and trouble makers off the streets with these arrests. We are proud of the progress made and will continue to make cases and work to improve the quality of life for citizens in Lexington," said Lieutenant Scott Blakely.

As a result of these three investigations, Lexington Police say they have so far made 291 arrests and seized $615,000 worth of drugs and cash.

“The message today is clear: Police are well trained, well equipped and well staffed. They are getting criminals and illegal drugs off the streets,” said Lexington Mayor Jim Gray.

"We think that these operations sort of help us to hit the reset button," said Chief Bastin.

On Thursday, the third phase was wrapped up. That's when police set up a perimeter in the east end, and we've been waiting to hear what that was all about until Monday's press conference.

"Right now we have seen an uptick in crack cocaine, and that's why we launched this investigation," said Lt. Blakely.

On Thursday, sheriff's deputies served 11 of 17 indictments which included 25 charges of trafficking controlled substances, 8 persistent felony offenders, and more.

Police officials say in order to crack down on the recent gun violence, they must first crack down on illegal drug activity. That's because they say they've found that drugs play a role in the majority of shootings in Lexington.

"It also tells these bad apples that we're not going to be tolerant of these behaviors," said Mayor Gray. "And that's what community building is all about."

As part of the third phase of the operation, police say they made 13 arrests Thursday in the east end. Also, Lexington Police and the sheriff's office are working to track down six more people to serve indictments on various drug charges.

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