Lansing Police Department’s Special Operations Section cracks down on undercover law enforcement

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The Lansing Police Department’s Special Operations Section (SOS) is the only unit in the LPD working undercover to enforce local and state laws in Lansing. The Special Operations Section primarily deals with closed investigations involving a multitude of crimes, from vice and drug violations to prostitution and gambling, according to SOS administrator Lt. David Nosotti.

“It’s not a unit that is publicly visible, but it’s essential in investigation to have a unit like this in order to get the job done,” Nosotti said. “The public may not see us or know who we are because we’re not driving marked police cars. It’s a very critical investigative tool to have a unit such as this.”

While the SOS deals with a wide range of issues, their main focus has been on drug crimes corresponding to the city’s diverging economy, said Nosotti. The city of Lansing lost 1,900 jobs in December of 2011, according to the Current Labor Statistics (CES) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“A lot of those drug use issues and drug sale issues are tied with bad economic times,” Nosotti said. “We get tips from sources within the police department and all over the community. We investigate those and our focus is on shutting down those drug houses, which is what typically happens when we obtain a search warrant for them.”

Harsh economic times affect the city as a whole, from the police department to the citizens, said Nosotti. Recent layoffs in the Lansing Police Department have included cutting programs, such as the landlord/tenant operation, from the SOS to a more generalized sector of the police department, according to Nosotti.

“As a result of lay-offs within the department, some of the services we were able to provide have been cut,” Nosotti said. “The landlord/tenant operation was a proactive program. We tried to reach out to landlords through some education and provide some services to try to prevent more drug houses from opening up. Our history has been that most drug houses we encounter have been in rental homes.”

The SOS has also been dealing with residents concerned about the state’s legalization of medicinal marijuana, said Nosotti.

The law says registered users can possess 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 marijuana plants for personal use. Authorized caregivers can possess those amounts for up to five patients.

“We have a lot of issues now with marijuana,” Nosotti said. “A lot of folks can use marijuana and grow marijuana. That has been a hurdle for a lot of citizens in the community. We still get a lot of calls about people who are growing marijuana in their home, and it’s perfectly legal.”

A spokesperson for the police department did not return a request for comment.

Lansing resident and medicinal marijuana patient, Shooka Rafizadeh, said she feels comfortable knowing that her marijuana use is protected, but wishes the public were more educated about the law.

“It’s great that the police department knows and enforces the medicinal marijuana laws so well,” Rafizadeh said. “What bothers me most is the fact that what I am doing is completely legal, but for some reason people do not pay attention to that. It’s a good feeling to have the law enforcement on your side, whether I can identify the officers or not.”

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