By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Falls police narcotics detectives paid an early morning visit Friday to a trio of homes in the North End, all tied to a pair of drug dealing brothers.
The coordinated raids were the result of a more than six-month investigation into drug activity in and near the area of 18th Street and Niagara Avenue. The intersection has also been the scene of numerous street sweeps over the summer.
With the assistance of Emergency Response Teams from the Niagara County Sheriff's Office and the North Tonawanda Police, along with Falls Police ERT officers, narcotics investigators knocked down the doors of homes at 1806 ad 1818 Niagara Avenues and a house at 1353 Ontario Ave. before the break of dawn.
K-9 units from the Sheriff's Office and Town of Tonawanda Police also assisted in the operation.
"The guys we were targeting today have been tearing up this neighborhood," Falls Narcotics Division Capt. Dave LeGault said. "We go to these community meetings and residents complain about the activity at these houses and we are going to address that."
Police said their target at the Ontario Avenue home was a dealer that they arrested several weeks ago, after finding seven pounds of marijuana in his SUV during a traffic stop on Niagara Avenue. Investigators said the suspect was dealing pot, heroin, powdered cocaine and prescription pills from his home.
"He's no stranger to us," one investigator said. "He's been doing this a long time."
When ERT officers hit the side door of the Ontario Avenue home, they found it heavily secured with multiple deadbolt locks. The other doors to the home were also heavily fortified.
Inside, the house was filled with high-end electronics, had mirrored ceilings and walls and featured a bathroom with a full-sized hot tub. Norman Rockwell art hung on the walls.
Investigators found no drugs, but said they believed they delivered a message to the suspect and the community.
"We're going to keep hitting places like this until they get the message you can't deal here," Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto said. "We know (the suspects) were selling drugs from all the houses we went to today."
At 1806 Niagara Ave., police found a classic drug house. The flithy, two-story home was being lived in by two adult males along with two boys aged 16 and 12.
The adults told police they weren't selling drugs, but admitted that others who frequented the home might be.
Outside the house, DalPorto found a large crack cocaine "cookie" in a plastic bag. Inside, an ATV was parked in a garbage strewn kitchen.
The house, which sits at the corner of 18th Street and Niagara Avenue, has reportedly been a haven for dealers, while other locals shoot dice in front of the home.
"This is were folks have told us they're afraid to walk because they don't want to have to confront these guys," LeGault said.
Just a few doors down, at 1818 Niagara Ave., police caught a break, when they found the doors to the home had not been fortified, though there were brackets capable of holding 2x4s in place by the doors.
"Those are to keep the police from kicking in your door," DalPorto said, disgustedly.
Inside, a sweep by the Sheriff's Office K-9 resulted in the discovery of almost two ounces of powdered cocaine. Officers also recovered a semi-automatic SKS Chinese assault rifle, along with a quantity of heroin and methamphetamine.
Police charged Devonte D. Sylvester, 20, the target of the raid at 1818 Niagara Ave., with two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
"(Devonte) is an extremely serious player," an investigator said. "He's following in his brother's footsteps."
The elder Sylvester brother had been the target of investigators at the Ontario Avenue home.
"We're out here, fighting the good fight," DalPorto said. "And we'll keep fighting."