16 arrested in raid of suspected downtown drug hot spot

Drug operation was organized crime, police say

By Katrina Webber - Crime Fighters Reporter, Jessie Degollado - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Sixteen people were arrested Tuesday morning during a raid of a downtown building that San Antonio police said was being used for organized drug activity.

"This building, this area, was a scourge for the city," said San Antonio Police Chief William McManus.

What was once an apartment building at the corner of West Houston and North Frio was supposed to be vacant, but instead was being used as a site for illegal drug activity, McManus said.

He said his narcotics team began investigating the building in February after receiving word about drug activity there.

Only later did they realize the scope of the operation, McManus said.

"What we found was that this was an organized crime operation," he said. "The charges will consist of delivery and possession of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and a lot of synthetic marijuana."

McManus said investigators set out to find 32 people who had 55 outstanding warrants among them. He said they located and arrested eight people, as well as eight others suspected of various violations. Most of them will face charges related to the drugs or weapons that were recovered at the scene.

"We had one AP, one arrested person, who had an active warrant for indecency with a child and was also a sex offender," McManus said.

Although the San Antonio Police Department took the lead on this case, McManus said it had help from several other agencies and organizations, including the Texas Department of Public Safety, VIA Metropolitan Transit, a SWAT team, Haven for Hope and various city offices. 

The building is in District 5, which Councilwoman Shirley Gonzales represents.

Gonzales and several other city and business officials showed up at the site after hearing of the raid.

"I'm very grateful for the effort and all the people involved but it has to be ongoing," she said.

Gonzales said she has seen other raids there in the past, only none of them has had a lasting effect.

The already chronic situation in the historic Cattleman Square District has become worse, according to Lea Rosenauer, president of Girls Inc., a nonprofit that is supposed to provide a safe haven for young girls to study after school.

"It doesn't create a great place to be where you feel safe," Rosenauer said.

Rosenauer said Girls Inc. has seen at least a 25 percent drop in attendance. 

"We’ve just had a real struggle convincing families to bring girls to us," she said.

If McManus has his way, though, things could change for good.

He said he is working with Code Compliance and other city offices to make more permanent changes.

"We are going to try to shut this building down, and we're working with the owner to do that," McManus said.

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