GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

October 4, 2012

Editorial: Double drug arrests on city's streets cries out for reforms

The good news is that Gloucester detectives have once again taken an alleged heroin dealer off the city’s streets, and that 24-year-old Jose Rodriguez III, out of Salem, is now behind bars.

But it’s hard to get past the bad news noted in Wednesday’s Page 1 story. That’s the fact that detectives Jeremiah Nicastro, Sean Conners and Tom Quinn had to nab Rodriguez twice within 10 days, because his low bail the first time around merely let him walk free and no doubt skip right back into business, with a few more rounds of sales.

Indeed, while the arrest of Rodriguez and colleagues from Chelsea and Salem mark positive steps for Gloucester police, and thereby the city and its residents as a whole in the never-ending local drug war, Rodriguez’ case should be seen as a model for judges, court officials and state lawmakers to pursue changes so that affronts to justice such as this don’t become even more commonplace than they already are.

Rodriguez was first reeled in on charges of distributing heroin after a brief chase through the city’s center on Sept. 22, and, by all counts, his arrest after a pursuit that began around Burnham’s Field should have put at least a small dent in the day-to-day street drug trade.

But, according to police reports, a little more than a week later, Nicastro got a call from an informant, who said Rodriguez was back in business.

How? When Rodriguez answered to the charges in Gloucester District Court, he was freed on $200 bail — an absolute slap in the face to police and city residents alike.

Thankfully, police this time staged a controlled buy of their own at Burnham’s Field, and brought Rodriguez back into the station for selling three bags of heroin this past Monday. And this time, he’s not only being held on $5,000 cash bail, but even if he can raise it, he could be held for up to 60 days since the new arrest means his first bail has been revoked, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the Essex County District Attorney’s office

But the fact that, for a mere $200, Rodriguez was able to basically scoff at our criminal justice system and continue dealing this all-too-deadly poison to Gloucester buyers should be seen as an alarming wakeup to call – and a cry out for court reforms that cannot come soon enough.

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