Altoona police executed a drug bust to arrest a suspected crack dealer and his middleman whose business is accused of unfolding at two area playgrounds.
Brock Kyle Bantum, formally of Philadelphia, and Steven Julius Miller of Altoona were arrested on Friday after attempting to sell crack to a confidential informant.
The arrests are the culmination of a three-month investigation beginning with calls from residents of a "playground watch," said Detective Sgt. Troy Johannides.
"We appreciate their information and dedication to looking after the kids. It's what helps us get these drug dealers," Johannides said.
A half-dozen neighborhood residents who live within sight of the Booker T. Washington playground on 19th Street and 13th Avenue comprise the playground watch.
Residents informed police of drug deals at the Booker T. Washington Playground as well as the Nehemiah Project Playground on 16th Avenue and 10th Street.
Johannides said he did not know whether children had been sold drugs, but he said laws deal specific punishment for dealing drugs near playgrounds.
"No matter their criminal record, when someone sells drugs within 1,000 feet of a school zone or 250 feet of a playground, it is two to four years," Johannides said.
The police's confidential informant worked a drug deal with Miller, Bantum's alleged middleman, leading to both men's arrest.
"Middlemen insulate their source from other addicts - and police," Johannides said. "They gain money or drugs from their role."
Miller took the confidential informant's money at Booker T. Washington playground, picked up Bantum, who was waiting at a bar, and drove to Bantum's home to retrieve the drugs for the deal.
"It is typical of sources to keep drugs at their home because they don't want to be found 'riding dirty,' if they get stopped by police," Johannides said.
Police arrested the men in traffic, then obtained a warrant to search Bantum's home at 1529 10th Street, where more than an ounce of crack cocaine valued in excess of $5,000 was seized.
Bantum's charges include two counts of delivery and conspiracy of crack cocaine and two counts of possession with intent to deliver crack cocaine.
Miller was charged with four counts of delivery and conspiracy of crack cocaine and related charges.
Miller and Bantum are jailed at the Blair County Prison. Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey P. Auker set Miller's bail at $120,000 straight cash and $90,000 straight cash for Bantum.
Preliminary hearings for Bantum and Miller are scheduled for Wednesday.