PATERSON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of people have been arrested in a massive heroin sweep in northern New Jersey that involved law enforcement agents from a dozen municipalities and four counties.
Prosecutors on Tuesday said 325 people, including more than 280 alleged users and 40 dealers, were snared during the eight-week operation that targeted Paterson-based drug operations.
The alleged users include a dental hygienist and a Philadelphia Phillies baseball prospect, said Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli.
Authorities also seized approximately 1,200 grams of raw heroin, enough to sell about 60,000 bags on the street, and another 12,000 bags from users, prosecutors said. The heroin has an estimated street value of $350,000.
Authorities also seized 30 guns and over $25,000 during the operation, which involved undercover agents and surveillance, prosecutors said.
The federal Drug Enforcement Agency said Paterson supplies more pure heroin than anywhere else in the country, and prosecutors called the situation in New Jersey a ‘suburban epidemic’, CBS 2’s Christine Sloan reported.
“It is affluent people, it’s educated folks, it’s women and men,” Passaic County Prosecutor, Camelia Valdes said.
Three prosecutors have been working to stem the problem which involves suspects from all walks of life.
“They are accountants. They are professionals,” Molinelli said, “A dental hygienist, a United States combat soldier injured in combat in Afghanistan.”
Most of them have one thing in common; they traveled to Paterson to buy drugs and ended up getting robbed.
“Instead of buying drugs they are confronted with an individual that points a weapon at them,” Molinelli said.
Authorities said that it isn’t just about making arrests, but getting help for addicts. They have proposed sending suspects to drug dependency programs and monitoring them for at least two years.
“We recognize that recovering from a heroin addiction is a fail, win, fail, win process,” Molinelli said.
More than 100 of the alleged users are from Bergen County where there have been 17 deaths caused by heroin overdoses this year.
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