"I guess he forgot the principles of D.A.R.E.," said West New York Police Director Oscar Fernandez last week.
The undercover investigation was conducted by the West New York Police Department's Narcotics Unit, and police said there are more arrests to come. Most of the adult suspects are in their twenties and from West New York; however, there were also suspects from North Bergen, Weehawken, Union City, and New York City.
"If you are dealing here, we are going to get you," Fernandez said last week. "That's not a threat; that's a promise."
Local police, in cooperation with the Hudson County Sheriff's Department and the Municipal Task Force from the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office, started the roundup at 6 a.m. a week ago Wednesday, on Oct. 15.
"We went early enough and grabbed the guys that might be a problem," Fernandez said. He said that seven arrests were made in the first hour, and by Friday evening, 26 males, two females, and three juveniles had been taken into custody.
The final arrest was made when a man turned himself in to police on Monday.
"All these arrests are for [alleged] drug dealing and conspiracy," said Fernandez. "These are [alleged] drug dealers. They [allegedly] dealt drugs directly to a police officer or [allegedly] conspired to deal drugs to a police officer."
Fernandez said that when they went to make the arrests, the county already had five of the suspects in custody for other offenses. He also said that one alleged drug dealer was arrested when he showed up at a school football game in West New York. He also said that at least one of the arrested suspects has ties to a nationally recognized gang.
Pills, coke, crack, and a car During the roundup, police said they found a variety of drugs.
"We got marijuana, pills, coke, and crack," said Fernandez. "We also confiscated a Mercedes Benz and took $7,000 cash from one of the dealers."
He said that the investigation focused on street sales.
"It is nice to get the big head with the kilos, but what affects the community most is the street sales," said Fernandez.
Fernandez said that taking drug dealers off the streets will reduce other related crimes in West New York.
"I think it is going to have an impact on the other crimes," he said. "It affects assaults in the streets; it affects home burglaries; it affects car burglaries. Cleaning the streets does a whole lot for the town."
He added, "I am pleased because I know it is going to have an impact on the town, and I am going to keep doing it."
Did you call the police? At the press conference on Tuesday, West New York Mayor Silverio Vega said that he hopes the arrests send a strong message to other criminals in West New York.
He said, "The message that we want to send to people who traffic in drugs is this: If you are in West New York, leave. If you think you are going to come to West New York and participate in these activities, we're going to arrest you, you are going to go to jail, and you are going to go to jail for a long time."
Fernandez said that while the investigation was going on, residents sometimes called the police about suspicious activity, and then complained that the police never showed up.
"For three and a half months, people might have been upset that, 'Well, I told them' or 'I called and nothing was done,'" said Fernandez. "There was something being done, and I think the 30-some odd arrests prove that."