Street Crimes Unit shows partnership is working

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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The Panama City Police Department, the Panama City Beach Police Department, and the Bay County Sheriff's Office joined forces to create the Street Crimes Unit in January.

Officials said common ties in their cases are what brought the three agencies together. (WJHG/WECP)

"Over the last half of 2019, we began working together on a series of violent crimes," Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said.

Friday, they showed the partnership is working.

Sheriff Ford said the task force is using "an intelligence-based approach." He said the criminal investigations division gives officers and deputies potential target areas where they believe people involved in crime operate.

"A lot of this stuff was related to drug sales," Sheriff Ford said.

Officials said common ties in their cases are what brought the three agencies together.

During a three week period, the Street Crimes Unit made 138 arrests and brought forth 270 total charges. Among those charges, the task force seized 685 grams of methamphetamine, 212.8 grams of marijuana, 56.7 grams of cocaine HCL, 9.2 grams of crack cocaine, and 95 pills of ecstasy among other drugs.

Two handguns and 21 rounds of ammo were also taken away along with $9,534.25 and a $100 counterfeit bill.

"A lot of these street-level robberies, store robberies, (and) home invasion robberies all have access to drug trafficking and drug trades," Panama City Police Chief Scott Ervin said.

Sheriff Ford called the Street Crimes Unit a surge of manpower.

However, the task force hasn't forgotten one of the cases that originally brought it together. December 29, Edward Ross was killed in his Panama City Beach home. Those responsible are still at large.

"We've been working very hard, working with our partners on that making progress on that. But we would also like to announce a $7,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of an individual or individuals for that homicide," Sheriff Ford said.

One of the arrests made by the Street Crimes Unit was made at Laketown Wharf Condominiums on January 16. Officials say task force members learned Damon Walker, 42, of Port St. Joe, was living at Laketown Wharf. There were active warrants out on Walker.

Officers and deputies located Walker and his condo and searched his residence. Officials say they found cocaine HCL, crack cocaine, ecstasy, a handgun and ammo, and drug paraphernalia. Walker was arrested on nine charges. Koen Cortellini, 24, of Panama City Beach was also arrested on six charges.

Another arrest by the Street Crimes Unit was made on January 22 during a traffic stop. Officials say the crime unit stopped a Toyota on Transmitter Road. The vehicle failed to stop at a red light.

Officials say during the traffic stop, a K-9 alerted to the presence of an illegal odor coming from the vehicle. Officers searched the vehicle and found marijuana, meth, and drug paraphernalia. Tony L. Infinger, 36, of Lynn Haven was arrested. Lacie A. Fallin, 25, of Panama City was also arrested.

On January 30, Street Crimes Unit officers arrested a man who tried to run from an attempted traffic stop. Officials say officers saw Herbet M. Cotty driving on 15th Street. They say Cotty was a habitual offender.

Officer tried to pull him over but Cotty swerved and hit a deputy's vehicle and continued to drive towards Panama City Beach. Cotty eventually struck a fence and got stuck while trying to run from the police.

Officers recovered a bag Cotty threw out of the window while driving. Officials say the bag contained methamphetamine, $429.25, and drug paraphernalia. Cotty was then arrested.

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