The rundown apartments in the Dayton, Ohio, neighborhood were more than just an eyesore. All around the small complex of interconnected apartments, working-class families kept their yards and older homes up, watched their children walk to school, and worked to make something better for themselves. Yet, right in the middle, like the first signs of rot in a tree, a gang of crack dealers had set up operations in the rundown apartments.
Day and night, cars stopped and men and women ran into the apartment, coming out a few minutes later with their purchases. Loud music and obscene language spilled from the apartments into the street. Broken bottles, crack pipes, and trash accumulated. Prostitutes hung around, luring customers into the filthy rooms where dirty mattresses lay on the floor.
Enough was enough, and tonight something was going to be done about it.
A marked Montgomery County Sheriff's Department K-9 vehicle pulled over a plain white Ford Econoline van right in front of the crack house. The dealers were alarmed at first, especially since a group of customers had just left. But it looked like just a routine traffic stop, so the dealers went back in laughing and shut the door.
Inside the white van, an entry team from the Combined Agencies for Narcotics Enforcement (CANE) crouched beside the rear door. Balaclavas hid their long hair and their faces, raid jackets stenciled with CANE covered their body armor and they held H&K USP .40s or sawed-off entry shotguns. One man held a heavy metal mini-ram.
"You know," the detective said, "I should have CANE cut into the front of this ram." He hefted the ram. "Then when I knocked the door down, it'd cut CANE in the wood like a calling card."
The other men and women were quiet. At least one of the suspects in the house was wanted for the murder and subsequent burning of the body of a prostitute. Several were known to carry weapons.
Another marked squad car pulled up behind the first one, simulating a routine back-up car. The carefully developed deception plan was fully realized. Sergeant William "Wild Bill" Dillon, a lanky, old mustachioed-pro who could pass for actor Sam Elliot's twin, looked to his rear then at the crack house, then whispered into his handset, "Go. Go. Go."
The Econoline's doors burst open and the assault team scrambled out in stack order and rushed the door of the crack house. The perimeter cover team, the uniformed officers and masked plainclothes officers, rushed from their vehicles and established a cordon around the small apartment complex. The ram made a big arc and took down the door with one swing, and in a heartbeat, the entry team crashed through the door and took down the occupants.
"Get down! Get down! Police! Get down!"
In the space of a few moments, the quiet street with a routine traffic stop is transformed into a police parking lot, lightbars sending blue and red everywhere, with nearby neighbors filling the streets and a sorry looking group of once-cocky crack dealers marched out to do the walk of shame.
It's just another day in the neighborhood for the guys and gals of CANE.
From Humble Beginnings
Combined Agencies for Narcotics Enforcement (CANE) was started in September 1987 as a vehicle to target mid- and upper-level narcotics dealers working in and around Montgomery County, Ohio. Montgomery County is an urban and suburban county with a population of 600,000. It covers part of the greater Dayton metropolitan area with a total population of 1.2 million.
The number of drug operations and drug-related offenses in the greater Dayton area seem all out of proportion to the population density. Dayton sits at the intersection of two major interstates; with I-70 running east-west while I-75 runs north-south. This puts Dayton at a crossroads between the lucrative drug markets of Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Past CANE and DEA investigations show that major traffickers from California, Texas, and New York use the Dayton area as a primary distribution point for heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.
Dealers have bought distressed farmland properties in the rural outskirts of Dayton to bring in semi-trailers loaded with marijuana. The loads are broken down under the cover of old barns for further distribution. In the urban areas, entire apartment buildings, like the one raided, have been converted into drug markets with investments from narcotics dealers.
Lt. Dave Spaulding, the commander of CANE and the Organized Crime Unit at the time this article was written, is well known to many officers as the author of numerous articles on handguns, concealed carry, defensive tactics, and other police-related topics in POLICE.