Spice seized; merchants cited / Ogden checks for new ordinance compliance

Sep 21 2010 - 11:22pm

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(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Containers of confiscated spice are being taken to the Ogden Police Department for disposal.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Nate Jacobsen (left) and Todd Watanbe, detectives with the Ogden Police Department, confiscate several boxes of spice from Smoke Etc. at 1019 Wall Ave. in Ogden. They spent Tuesday afternoon checking to see if businesses are complying with the city’s new ordinance banning spice.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Detective Nate Jacobsen loads a container of spice into his patrol car after confiscating it from Kwick Stop at 630 21st St. He and fellow Ogden officers spent Tuesday afternoon checking businesses to see if they were complying with Ogden’s new ordinance banning spice.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Containers of confiscated spice are being taken to the Ogden Police Department for disposal.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Nate Jacobsen (left) and Todd Watanbe, detectives with the Ogden Police Department, confiscate several boxes of spice from Smoke Etc. at 1019 Wall Ave. in Ogden. They spent Tuesday afternoon checking to see if businesses are complying with the city’s new ordinance banning spice.
(ANTHONY SOUFFLE/Standard-Examiner) Detective Nate Jacobsen loads a container of spice into his patrol car after confiscating it from Kwick Stop at 630 21st St. He and fellow Ogden officers spent Tuesday afternoon checking businesses to see if they were complying with Ogden’s new ordinance banning spice.

OGDEN -- Some seemed glad and others were mad. Police received a variety of reactions from store owners Tuesday afternoon during a citywide sweep that resulted in the seizure of about 433 containers of illegal spice worth about $2,000 and the issuance of two misdemeanor citations to merchants.

The enforcement operation stemmed from the city council's adoption of an ordinance last week that bans the sale and possession of spice, an herbal and chemical concoction that, when smoked, replicates the effects of marijuana. Those who violate the ordinance could be fined $1,000 and face up to six months in jail.

On Friday, police fanned out across the city to hand out copies of the ordinance to more than 50 establishments, ranging from laundromats to sexually oriented businesses, where spice might be sold, said Ogden Police Lt. Scott Conley.

Then on Tuesday, to ensure compliance with the ordinance, detectives revisited five businesses actually determined to be selling spice.

The operation got off to a rocky start minutes after Detectives Nate Jacobsen and Todd Watanabe walked into Smoke Etc. at 1019 Wall Ave.

Fuaad Alatabi, owner of the business, denied to police that he was still selling spice but acknowledged that he had some of the product in a storeroom.

"I'm not selling it," he said. "I don't want to do anything illegal."

However, despite Alatabi's protest, police issued him a ticket and confiscated numerous containers of spice ranging in price from $6 to $70.

At one point, Alatabi tried to block the camera lens of a Standard-Examiner photographer who was standing on a sidewalk taking pictures of the exterior of Smoke Etc.

A female employee of the business, who declined to give her name, told a reporter for the newspaper that about 20 people come to the store each day to buy spice but are turned away.

Jacobsen and Watanabe were received much more warmly at the Corner Market at Ninth Street and Polk Avenue, which has been at the center of Ogden's spice controversy because it is adjacent to Horace Mann Elementary School.

Shershah Lodin, who manages the store, seemed almost glad to see the detectives and assured them the business had disposed of its spice within 30 minutes of being notified Friday that it could no longer sell it.

"The minute they said it was illegal, we got rid of it," he said.

Jacobsen and Watanabe searched the Corner Market for spice but didn't find any. In addition, no spice was located by police Tuesday at the West Side Market, 873 24th St.

At the Kwikstop convenience store, 630 21st St., employee Muhmmad Khan told the detectives the store didn't have any spice, but they easily found a large quantity of it in a storeroom.

"Everybody respects the law," Khan told the Standard-Examiner.

Dozens of jars of spice were seized, and the owner of Kwick Stop, who wasn't present when Jacobsen and Watanabe stopped by and whose name wasn't available, will be cited by police.

At one point during Tuesday's operation, Jacobsen and Watanabe had so much spice loaded into their unmarked patrol car that they had to return to police headquarters to drop off the stuff.

Assistant Police Chief Marcy Korgenski said she was surprised by the amount of spice collected.

"I thought we would have good compliance because we had so much publicity with it (the anti-spice ordinance)," she said, adding that police may eventually resort to undercover stings to nab merchants who sell spice.

Truyen Nguyen, owner of Tiger Mart, 2717 Washington Blvd., was the last merchant cited Tuesday for having spice, which was found by Jacobsen and fellow Detective Kim Rodell underneath the counter of his business.

Nguyen, who said he is planning to pursue a career in law enforcement, said he's surprised it took the city council so long to enact an anti-spice ordinance. He also questioned how effective the new law will be.

"It's like marijuana," Nguyen said. "It's impossible to enforce."

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