Milwaukee police and prosecutors are asking judges to freeze the cell phone numbers of heroin dealers, cutting off their income stream.
Heroin dealing has grown into a booming business in Milwaukee, with police scrambling to disrupt the deadly trade. Even as officers haul suspects to jail, the dealer’s key source of cash — the cellphone number where orders roll in — often is quickly back up and running, sometimes in just an hour. Police say many dealers, knowing they could get arrested, have set up contingency plans to transfer the prized 10-digit number to a new phone, preserving its value and keeping the drugs and cash flowing, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
In the heroin business, the cellphone number is the lifeline of the trade. Well-established numbers can generate more than $11,000 a day. To combat the quick switch, Milwaukee law enforcement officials are trying a new tactic, dubbed a “seize and freeze” order. Prosecutors ask a judge to allow them to freeze the phone number, rendering the line unable to send or receive calls or text messages. Once addicts realize the number is dead, it loses its value and dealers lose the stream of income. The first such case in Wisconsin — possibly in the nation — was filed this year and shut down a number being used by a heroin-dealing crew known as Big Money Addicts. The group is one of several in Milwaukee that has turned to a new mobile model designed to quickly deliver narcotics and thwart police efforts to arrest them.