Two rival drug groups battling for territory in HRM have been busted up by police.

Police say these groups may also be responsible for a rash of shootings in North and East Preston, Westphal and north-end Dartmouth since March.

Seven people appeared in Dartmouth court yesterday facing drug and weapons charges. Twelve others were arrested in the past two months.

Brad Sullivan, an inspector with Halifax RCMP, said Operation Impinge was in direct response to the elevated number of shootings in HRM this spring.

“Firearms are tools of the drug trade. We believe these groups were competing for turf and market share in relation to the drug trade in Halifax,” Sullivan told reporters at a press conference yesterday.

“As arrests were made during the course of this investigation, the number of shootings in HRM has dropped off significantly.”

There were no charges laid directly relating to the shootings, but police are looking to connect them.

Either way, police say they’ve made a “significant dent” in these drug organizations.

“We believe we’ve impacted on them to the degree they haven’t been totally eliminated, but it’s much more difficult to do business,” Sullivan said.

Two of the 19 people arrested had their homes shot at recently

In March, several shots were fired at the home of Roger Santrevo Downey on Cain Street in North Preston. Marchello Martino Williams’ home was also shot at in March and a Molotov cocktail was thrown onto the front lawn. Downey was charged with shooting Williams in the thigh last fall, but the attempted murder charge was later dropped.

Both Downey and Williams are now facing charges resulting from Operation Impinge.

For Mike Burns, superintendent with the Halifax Regional Police, it wasn’t the amount of crack cocaine or number of handguns seized that alarmed him, but the drug dealers’ disregard for public safety.

He said they’re carrying guns for protection, status and intimidation.

“The gun is the tool of the drug deal,” Burns said. “We are seeing more and more guns in the hands of drug dealers.”

Operation Impinge

• Arrests: 19

• Charges: 75 including weapons-related offences, drug offences and breaches of court orders.

• Locations: North and East Preston, Westphal, and north-end Dartmouth.

• Seized: Considerable amounts of crack cocaine, minimal amounts of cash, six handguns, one long gun, ammunition, drug paraphernalia, cellphones, and several sets of body armour.

• Investigators involved: 18

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