Cops net crack and cash in drug bust

"Oak Harbor Police Sgt. Tim Sterkel scored two big chunks of crack cocaine, $2,600 in cash, a car and a .45 magnum - one of the most powerful handguns known to man - at one of five homes the police served search warrants on during an early morning drug sweep Sunday.Four men and three women were arrested and booked into the Oak Harbor jail on suspicion of various drug crimes, including possession of marijuana, possession of cocaine and possession of methamphetamine.The police are also looking for two other suspects who weren't at home during the searches.Sterkel, who is the department's drug enforcement officer, said he worked with local informants on the 45-day investigation of drug peddling in the city, which culminated with the searches. Three of the homes were in the city and two were in the county.At one residence, Sterkel said the officers discovered a crack car, which is basically a crack house on wheels. They seized crack cocaine, a .45 handgun and cash from the car, then they seized the car itself. More cash was found in the house. The male resident was arrested on suspicion of cocaine possession with intent to sell. Having the gun on the premises may make the drug charges more serious, Sterkel said.The search warrants were carried out by the department's Special Response Team, which is Oak Harbor's version of a SWAT team. A patrol deputy with the Island County Sheriff's Office also accompanied the team since two of the search warrants were in the county. The operation went off without a hitch, Sterkel said.He says that informants are essential to drug investigations like this one. The informants are local residents who either are helping the police out of the goodness of their heart, or are in trouble with the law and are looking for a way out. In other words, information in exchange for dropped charges. Quid pro quo.Sterkel's position as the department's only full-time drug investigator is funded largely by a federal COPS grant, which will run out in less than two years. Under the agreement with the federal government, the city is supposed to finance the position after that. "

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