“Wet” is some nasty stuff, says Lt. Charles Cochran, who runs the Vice and Narcotics Division of the Hartford Police Department.
Cochran’s detectives have seen a marked increase in use of the drug — PCP soaked in mint leaves “to take away the horrible taste.” Users place a leaf under their tongues for the drastic high it delivers.
“People store it in glass jars because it’s absorbed through the skin as well,” says Cochran. “If you don’t store it in a glass container it can leach into food in the freezer.”
Cochran says the drug makes people dangerous: “They don’t feel pain. There’s a disassociation with reality. They could think you’re a dragon and they have to kill you.”
A drug bust at 71-72 Madison St. last week included two grams of Wet, along with 46 bags of heroin, 14 grams of cocaine, five grams of marijuana and $848. It wasn’t a particularly big haul. A bag of heroin goes for $10, meaning the total value seized was only about $460.
But there were six arrests made in the take-down of the location, and then 10 more arrests in a “reverse sting” operation in which undercover officers replace the drug dealers and arrest customers who continue to show up.
“The regular clientele comes seeking to buy drugs. We allow them to come in like there’s going to be a transaction, but there’s no transaction, just handcuffs,” says Cochran.
It’s easy for members of Cochran’s squad to mimic dealers because they’ve seen them in action so often.
“All behavior is modeled,” says Cochran. “We see them doing this all the time. It’s not like we have to take an acting class.”
Stretching his hands out from his sides and shrugging his shoulders, Cochran mimics the body language that begins many drug transactions.
“Officers out front make the same gestures dealers make: ‘What are you looking for? What do you need?’” says Cochran.
“When people say, ‘I’ll take two for 20,’ they know that means two bags of heroin for $20. That’s an offer to purchase narcotics, which is a crime.”
There have been 2,078 drug arrests in Hartford this year, up 8 percent from 1,931 arrests last year, according to Cochran. But it’s the arrests for prostitution that are up drastically, by 76 percent.
Cochran’s squad uses reverse stings to crack down on prostitution as well, with male officers posing as “johns” and female officers occasionally posing as prostitutes. An operation last week netted seven arrests for prostitution by targeting ads on Craigslist and in this paper. Spokeswoman Sgt. Christene Mertes says the reverse stings are addressing the “quality of life” concerns of Hartford residents.
“It’s a bad economy. People need money. They don’t have jobs,” says Cochran. “Prostitution is an easy way to get whatever you need to get.”