AZUSA — Arthur Paul Martinez said he wondered why more cars were driving by his house, but didn't give it much thought. Now that he knows why, he doesn't care for the answer.
In an August issue of The Neighborhood Communicator, a newsletter put out by the Police Department, Chief Lloyd J. Wood identified Martinez by name and street address as one of the "dope pushers" in Azusa.
Martinez, 35, was arrested in June and charged with possession for sale of less than 1 gram of heroin and less than 1 gram of cocaine. He had been arrested twice before on charges of either possession for sale or having drug paraphernalia. All those cases are pending, police said. Martinez has pleaded innocent in each case.
Martinez, who denied all the charges, said he objects to Wood branding him as a dealer.
"I think (Wood) better check himself before he has a suit," Martinez said. "He's got his information pretty screwed up. . . . I've never been convicted of anything. Isn't he jumping the gun?"
In an interview, Wood called Martinez and Ruben Gonzales, the other man identified in the newsletter, "two of the more notorious dealers in town" in explaining why he singled them out.
Gonzales, 42, while acknowledging that he uses heroin occasionally, denied that he is a dealer.
"I'm not a dealer anymore; that was long ago," he said. "I was never convicted of dealing, only personal use. . . . He (Wood) really makes it seem like I'm somebody.
Dating back to 1973, Gonzales has been arrested three times for possession of heroin, six times for being under the influence of heroin and three times for having drug paraphernalia, said Sgt. James Collins, who heads Azusa's drug task force.
Gonzales, who has served a total of more than four years for the various offenses, has never been arrested for drug dealing in Azusa. He was charged in May with possession of less than a gram of heroin and with possession of drug paraphernalia. Azusa police said they cannot release information about whether Gonzales has been arrested outside their jurisdiction.
Wood said informants working for his undercover officers have bought drugs from both men. "So I know they're dealers. When I say they do sell, that's my basis for it."
Although neither man has been charged with selling narcotics in Azusa, Wood said he considers the charge of possession for sale the same as dealing.
"Possession for sale basically means the same thing as far as I'm concerned," he said. "I don't see any difference between the two."
Unlike Martinez, Gonzales has never been arrested for possession for sale of narcotics.
"When I wrote the article, I made it somewhat general," Wood said. "My understanding is that they were dealing."
Collins said that because an undercover officer has never personally bought narcotics from either man, the police cannot arrest them for dealing.
"A lot of the times, they want to see needle marks, or for you to shoot up before you go," Collins said. "It's really difficult, so we use the other charge (possession for sale) to show they're dealers."
With a task force of only four officers, all easily recognizable by the two men, Collins said police decided not to attempt an undercover operation.
1,600 Copies Published
The policy of naming suspected drug dealers was announced in the August issue of the Communicator. About 1,600 copies of the quarterly publication are sent to Neighborhood Watch groups. After noting that the department's narcotics task force is having difficulty keeping pace with the increasing flow of drugs, Wood mentions the men and suggests they should leave the city.
"Many of you may not be aware of the dope pushers in your city," he wrote in the article. "I think you should know who they are and where they live."
After naming the two men and listing their street addresses, the article concludes: "These two people are heavy into narcotics. They have been arrested for narcotics possession, selling, and using. They help keep narcotics in the city of Azusa. I think they should leave."
As part of a get-tough policy, Wood said he will continue to publish the names and addresses of those arrested for drug trafficking within Azusa. Wood said that if the Communicator newsletter has increased scrutiny of Martinez's activities in the community, the program's objective has been achieved.
"I personally believe that these people have a tendency to remain anonymous," Wood said in an interview. "Why should that be? If I had my way, I'd put them up on posters around the city and run their pictures in all the newspapers."
Limited by Budget
Wood said a tight budget is the only constraint preventing him from expanding the program to other media with larger audiences.
Publishing the names, addresses and offenses of the subjects violates no confidentiality laws because the information is already public, Wood said. Many community newspapers have long held policies of publishing the names of those arrested for drunk driving and similar offenses.