A covert operation conducted by the Madison Police Department resulted in the arrest of five alleged heroin dealers last Thursday night.

After the Bayview-Braxton Neighborhood Officer received several complaints about ongoing drug dealing in the Community Development Authority housing at 245 S. Park St., the South District Community Policing Team launched an investigation.

Over the last several weeks they collected enough evidence to develop reasonable suspicion. On Thursday night they moved in and made the arrests.

“Thursday night’s drug arrest was a result of an effort to focus on a few individuals who had become a nuisance,” Madison Police Department Capt. Joe Balles said. “The CDA housing is safe and a lot of people need it. When we get a couple of individuals using it as a drug house, the City of Madison is not going to tolerate that.”

Heroin has become an established and growing problem in Madison over the last few years, Balles said. He compared the volume of drug buyers in this incident to customers at a grocery market.

“With that amount of traffic, we’re going to shut them down,” he said. “They are not going to be living in the CDA housing anymore.”

Joel DeSpain, MPD spokesperson, agreed, calling the heroin problem an “epidemic.” He said that heroin users contribute greatly to crime in the city and that they are seeing a lot of calls for overdoses.

“This is a huge issue across the city and in other surrounding areas,” DeSpain said. “Once it takes root, it becomes a cancer.”

DeSpain and Balles both mentioned the best solution to cleaning up an area is to work with the building owners. According to DeSpain, the success of a neighborhood turning around is often the result of tenant screenings and evictions of known drug dealers.

Balles said he is working with the CDA housing to pursue evictions against those who were identified, arrested and charged with the distribution of heroin. He added that the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests may happen in the future.

“We may never win the war on drugs,” Balles said. “The best we can do is to try and curtail people’s appetite for illegal drugs.”