RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — After the community of Riviera Beach raised concerns about the crime at the Avenue "E" corridor, police conducted a multi-phase operation to improve the quality of life for residents.
The Riviera Beach Police Department said from loitering, drug dealing, prostitution and even drinking in public. The plan was broken up into four different phases in order to combat all the issues taking place along the Avenue "E" corridor.
Police say the initial phase of the operation was assessing and identifying the convenience stores to see if the allegations of criminal activity were legitimate. As a result, the Riviera Beach police VICE Unit conducted a drug investigation at all convenience stores in the area. Multiple drug purchases occurred at locations along the corridor.
"There were four stores that we identified that were selling drugs from the premises. They were drinking in public, they were loitering, it was an eyesore and these convenience stores are embedded directly within the neighborhood," Josh Lewis, Major with the Riviera Beach Police Department, said.
The Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) initiated an investigation into illegal alcohol sales at the Kwik Stop on 101 W. Blue Heron Blvd. Investigators learned the store clerk sold alcohol to a minor and was arrested on scene.
On Thursday, multiple local and state law enforcement units executed the Search Warrant phase of the operation.
The Riviera Beach Police Department said the second phase targeted the known drug dealers along the Avenue “E” corridor. This phase of the investigation resulted in probable cause for four known drug dealers.
"We have young youth, we have visitors coming to our community, and you just don't want to have them being approached or being subjected to illegal drug activity," Nathan Gordon, Captain of Strategic Investigations for the Riviera Beach Police Department, said.
Police say it received several complaints from residents and the Patrol Division concerning prostitution activity on the Broadway and Avenue E corridor. Based on the complaints, the VICE Unit, under the direction of the S.I.D Command Staff, initiated an undercover Prostitution Operation to address the issue.
"Well, it's embedded within the neighborhood, the activities taking place where people live, nobody wants to walk outside of their house and see a car stop and have to witness that type of activity. It's an eyesore. And quite frankly, the residents of the community don't deserve it," Lewis said.
Multiple units we able to assist in this phase of the operation. Five women were arrested for prostitution: Shawanda Jones, 43, Tanya Rosario, 41, Penelope Quijada, 34, Shantae Beasley, 44, and Susan Johnson, 59. Three of the five women were charged with felony prostitution.
The fourth and final phase focused on four convenience stores that have caused multiple issues for residents along the corridor, police say.
The following was the outcome from the investigation:
Kwik Stop, located at 101 West Blue Heron Boulevard
▪ Nine FL ABT Violations.
▪ Four Code Enforcement Violations.
▪ Store cook Baldomero Cruz (h/m, 12/18/1962) arrested by Border Patrol (Illegal Alien).
Yassir Food Market, located at 2300 Avenue E
▪ Fifteen FL ABT Violations.
▪ Four Fire Safety Violations.
▪ ACE Unit recovered a firearm from a patron. Arrest pending DNA results. Suspect Wayne J. Wynds (other/m, 01-17-1966).
Mid-Town Food Market, located at 115 West 19th
▪ Six FL ABT Violations.
▪ Numerous Code Enforcement and building violations.
▪ Recovered Stolen firearm and Marijuana discovered in store clerk area behind the counter.
▪ Store clerk Ahmend Omar (other/m, 03-11-1970) arrested by Border Patrol (Illegal Alien).
▪ Drug dealer Alexis Crockett (b/f, 01-28-1985) arrested for Sale of Cocaine (Agent direct).
▪ Drug dealer Matthew Gaines (b/m, 09-28-1981) arrested for Sale of Cocaine (Agent direct).
▪ Building Official Bo Richards issued a violation under Section 22-35 of the City Code, which deemed the premises unsafe for human occupancy. The store was closed down immediately.
Avenue E Market, located at 1361 Avenue E
▪ This location received one code enforcement violation.
“We want all the stores to thrive and provide quality service to the community,” said Police Chief Michael Coleman. “The Police Department will target the negative activities that occur at all of the stores. Business owners must do a better job in policing their property, and we are here to assist.”