“Operation Justice Served” took five months and broke down a drug ring allegedly responsible for putting an average of 2,500 packets of heroin on New Jersey streets every month. Local law enforcement in Freehold, New Jersey, worked together with federal, state, and county authorities to arrest 42 people over the last month and seize:
- 2,700+ bags of heroin
- 16 ounces of marijuana
- 300 grams of cocaine
- Dozens of prescription pills
Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said: “The joint efforts of these multiple law enforcement agencies involved in Operation Justice Served have accomplished the mission of taking down this local drug trafficking network responsible for bringing drugs into the county and threatening quality of life and the safety of residents. Perhaps most importantly, a drug trafficking network that was moving about 2,500 bags of heroin and 200 grams of cocaine a week is officially out of business as this operation stopped its ability to put dangerous substances into our community.”
Based out of Freehold Borough, the alleged drug ring consisted of many people from Freehold Township but included others from Bayonne, Manalapan Township, Long Branch, and Somerset Township. About 13 people were charged with:
- Conspiracy to possess drugs with the intent to distribute
- Drug possession
- Drug possession with intent to distribute
- Unlawful possession of a handgun
- Unlawful selling of firearm
- Possession of a firearm while committing a drug offense
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Unlawful possession of weapons
- Possession of a handgun without a permit
- Conspiracy to sell a firearm
- Drug possession within 500 feet of public housing
- Outstanding warrant
- Violation of a drug offender restraining order
- Possession of a stun gun
Bail amounts ranged from more than $1 million with a 10 percent option to $65,000 with no 10 percent option. Three more people believed to be associated with drug sales in this group remain at large.
One More Down
Operation That’s All Folks marks one more endeavor on the part of law enforcement to disrupt the flow of drugs to the streets. While this effort is to be respected, the fact is that many will be back to their old habits within a few months, and others will rise up in their place to fill the void and connect people who are struggling with addiction with their substance of choice.
It is an ongoing back and forth struggle that has been happening for decades, and as we continue to see overdose rates rise, it is essential that we as a nation work together to create a new plan if we are to see positive change. Something must happen to change the status quo if we are going to connect the many people who are living with addiction with treatment and prevent young people from developing an addiction that could be life-threatening.
Assessing Where We Are
In order to know how to proceed, we must first take a look at where we are – and where we are is not good, especially here at home. In New Jersey, overdose death rates are triple that of the national average. The number of people who died in New Jersey from 2010 to 2013 due to drug overdose is higher than the number of deaths caused by car accident, homicide, AIDS, and suicide. This constitutes a crisis of the highest order, and it demands immediate and intensive attention.
First Things First
In order to lower the rates of overdose, we must be able to intervene effectively when an overdose strikes. Because opiate overdose specifically is such a huge problem, increasing access to naloxone, a drug that can effectively overturn an opiate overdose and stop it from becoming fatal, is essential. This means putting the drug into the hands of first responders as well as into the hands of friends and loved ones who may be on hand to help someone in need.
Are Drug Buyers Criminals?
According to Operation Justice Served, they are. In addition to the people who were arrested on suspicion of drug distribution, another 28 people were identified as regular buyers from the drug ring and arrested as well. All were charged with third-degree possession of controlled dangerous substances and third-degree conspiracy to possess controlled dangerous substances. Many were released on their own recognizance, but a number in this group had bail set between $10,000 and $20,000 with no 10 percent option. There is no notation as to why some had no bail and others had high bail amounts, or whether or not any or all would have the option of accessing treatment as opposed to being jailed for allegedly keeping the drug ring in business.
Punishment or Treatment?
Substance use disorders are the only medically recognized disorders that are punished with jail time. Simple possession of the substance of addiction is enough to get someone sent to jail in this country, and it is becoming increasingly clear that this method of handling the problem does nothing to effectively address the situation, nor is it cost-effective. If the goal is to take a buyer off the street in order to keep the drug rings and cartels out of business, the best way to do that is to help someone overcome addiction. Simply putting someone who struggles with addiction in a cell for years with other people who are likely similarly struggling with addiction will only increase their options for continued drug use when they are released, not help them to find a new path in life.
Drug courts, on the other hand, provide the opportunity to undergo treatment rather than spend time in jail. First started in New Jersey in 1996, New Jersey drug courts spread across the state in 2002 and 2004. The hope is that many of the people arrested solely for buying drugs in Operation Justice Served will be able to go through drug courts and connect with treatment services that will help them to not only stop using all substances immediately but also to learn and practice new life skills that promote peace, power, and wellbeing.
Staying out of Court
Investigations like Operation Justice Served unfold in New Jersey all the time. There are a number of such investigations underway right now, and arrests will continue to put people living with addiction in a position to rethink their lives and the best way forward. The best way to avoid ending up in front of a judge and requesting drug court, and dealing with the stress and fines that go with that process, is to simply choose to get help now. Enrolling in treatment can help you to get your life under control on your own terms and begin the process of improving your experience starting right now.
Are you ready to begin your new life in recovery?
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