Hamilton, N.J. – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and New Jersey State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes today announced a statewide violent offender fugitive sweep that has resulted in the arrest of more than 150 offenders. The ongoing investigation began November 1, 2016. To date, authorities have seized 11 firearms (2 assault rifles), 631 decks of heroin, and 60 vials of crack cocaine. In addition, Attorney General Porrino announced a new law enforcement directive designed to prevent victim and witness intimidation.
The Violent Crime Initiative was coordinated by the New Jersey State Police Fugitive Unit at the request of the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General in an effort to further suppress violent crimes throughout the state. The operation is intended to target violent fugitives, many of whom are criminal gang members with arrest warrants for crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, and drug trafficking.
Some of the more serious offenders captured during this initiative are:
Jeremy Arrington, 27, of Newark
- Wanted for a triple homicide in Newark where an 8-year old, an 11-year old and an adult female were murdered, in addition to Attempted Murder, Unlawful Possession of a Firearm, and Possession of a Firearm for Unlawful Purpose. He was arrested on November 6, 2016 in Newark.
Juprie Wadeley, 19, of Trenton
- Wanted on charges of Murder and weapons offenses resulting from the shooting death of a 15-year old in Trenton on June 11, 2016. He was arrested on December 7, 2016 in Trenton.
Kamal Sears, 36, of Atlantic City
- Wanted for escaping from a New Jersey Department of Corrections Facility where he was serving a five-year prison sentence for multiple weapons offenses. He was arrested on December 8, 2016.
Otis Dennis, 21, of Millville
- Wanted for Unlawful Possession of a Weapon. At the time of his arrest, it was discovered that Dennis was out on bail from a previous Murder Charge. He was arrested on November 15, 2016 in Millville.
Balil Burton, 26, of Atlantic City
- Wanted for an armed robbery in Galloway Township and is a member of the “Bloods” Street Gang. He was arrested on December 14, 2016 in Atlantic City.
Charles Willis, 24, of Trenton
- Wanted for Aggravated Assault, Unlawful Possession of a Handgun, and Possession of a Handgun for Unlawful Purpose in connection with a shooting in Trenton. He was arrested on November 30, 2016.
State Police Units assisting with the operation include the Crime Suppression Unit, Gangs and Organized Crime Unit, NJ Regional Operations Intelligence Center, and the Real Time Crime Center. The United States Marshals Service and the NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force have also assisted with the initiative.
“Through these sweeps, we not only take dangerous criminals off the street, we also develop investigative leads that can help us dismantle the drug rings that are driving violent crime and fueling the epidemic of opiate addiction in our communities,” said Attorney General Porrino. ”Narcotics trafficking and violence are inextricably linked, and as addiction has grown, so has the challenge of combating violence in our urban centers. Our message today is that we will continue to work tirelessly to solve the problem of addiction and stem the tide of violence in New Jersey.”
“The Violent Crime Initiative has resulted in the apprehension of some of New Jersey’s most dangerous criminals, and the sweep represents a significant step towards disrupting the volatile climate that currently exists in some urban areas,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The operation has not only made the targeted jurisdictions and surrounding areas safer, but valuable information has been gathered that will, in all likelihood, lead to future arrests.”
“The cooperation amongst law enforcement agencies in New Jersey is worthy of notice,” said U.S. Marshal Juan Mattos Jr., United States Marshal Service. “When every agency, whether city, county, state, or federal, is committed to working together to locate and arrest criminal offenders, we all enjoy safer communities.”
At the same time that he announced the warrant sweep, Attorney General Porrino also announced another anti-violence initiative involving his issuance of a new law enforcement directive to prevent victim and witness intimidation. The problem of witness intimidation and tampering is pervasive, particularly in urban centers where the “snitches get stitches” culture is common. The Attorney General’s Office held a series of meetings at which law enforcement, community leaders, and civilians alike spoke out recently against the deeply destructive practice of witness intimidation. Such intimidation impedes the ability of law enforcement to prosecute violent crimes, thereby breeding more violence and undermining public trust and confidence in police.
“Our message today to community members is that police will do everything possible to protect them if they do the right thing and cooperate in an investigation,” added Attorney General Porrino. “With this directive, we are seeking to protect witnesses and ensure that violent criminals face stern prosecution, particularly if they engage in this type of intimidation.”
"We have spoken with citizens across the state and they have made this clear: the 'no snitching' mentality is destroying communities by preventing law enforcement from serving and protecting good people who deserve to live without fear of violent reprisal if they cooperate,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This Directive enables prosecutors and police statewide to use all available means to combat this pervasive problem."
Implementation of the Bail Reform Act effective Jan. 1 has provided a unique opportunity to address the problem of witness intimidation. Attorney General Porrino has seized that opportunity with the new directive issued today, which takes the following actions, among others:
- Directs that when prosecutors have reason to believe a defendant or his associates might engage in witness intimidation, they must notify police before producing any evidence or documents in discovery to a defense attorney that could reveal the identity of a victim or witness, so police can take immediate precautions to warn and protect the victim or witness.
- Mandates that when charges of victim or witness intimidation can be substantiated, police and prosecutors must aggressively pursue such charges. The directive instructs them to be particularly wary of emerging forms of witness intimidation, including social media.
- Directs the development within 90 days of an online training course for police and prosecutors to teach them about the legal tools available to fight victim and witness tampering. Requires all prosecutors to take the course within 90 days of its launch.
- Requires that when officers learn that a defendant might try to intimidate a victim or witness, they shall promptly notify the prosecutor. The prosecutor, in consultation with the police, must consider whether to seek pretrial detention of the defendant under the Bail Reform Act, or whether some form of restraint (e.g., no contact order, electronic monitoring of defendant, etc.) should be imposed by the court as a condition of pretrial release.
- Mandates certain protocols (use of anonymous references, seeking protective orders) to protect witness confidentiality and anonymity wherever possible, and specifically authorizes use of forfeiture funds for witness relocation.
Under the Bail Reform Act, which took effect Jan. 1, authorities have sought pretrial detention or protective conditions for pretrial release for some of the more dangerous defendants, while other defendants have been released and ordered to appear at a later date for first appearances. These are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Because these are indictable offenses, the charges against the defendants will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.