Questions Posted to "Ask a Dispatcher"
Q. In the evening after like 10pm or later in the Mendenhall Mall parking lot there are about 5 or more cars that are usually sitting there with lights on and then cars pull up exchange items and then one car drives off. To me this looks like regular drug activity and I have called you guys multiple times but nothing is done.
Dear Juneau Resident,
I know you are very frustrated and I don't blame you. We have gotten many calls on that type of suspicious activity at parking lots all over town. It is infuriating to see that behavior and 'know' what is going on...but that is still not evidence that will justify search warrants, arrest warrants, or an arrest for an offense committed in our presence. Parking lots might even be choosen because the people in cars can see if anyone is close enough to be a witness to illegal activity.
Still, the information about suspicious behavior is helpful. Tips are useful. They can lead to officers watching the area, getting some license plates, etc...maybe even approaching the drivers and asking for consent to search vehicles.
You might be asking what is it that police need to take more decisive action? It is helpful if there is an association between those appearing to pass drugs and known or proven drug dealers. We might be able to link the parties using license plates. If JPD is running informants we might have 'buys' in at that location. Even if we do use an informant or undercover officer to make a 'buy' a member of the public is probably not going to see an immediate response. JPD might do a number of buys through an informant before moving forward on a case. The evidence collection portion of any case is always the most important portion. During that time, observers wouldn't be able to tell if any police activity is going on at all. Our informants and undercover officers are supposed to blend in and be indistinquishable from the users and dealers.
Any member of the public would like to see the police swoop in and arrest a bunch of people dealing drugs in a parking lot. That would be very satisfying. If and when something like that happens, it is the culmination of many months of investigation and having targets there who have generated evidence for the case. If we make a move when all we have is suspicious behavior we won't get convictions. Beyond a reasonable doubt is a high bar.