Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia M. Valdes announces the completion of “Operation Helping Hand” - a week-long operation - from June 11, 2018 through June 15, 2018 - that involved approximately 150 officers from various law enforcement agencies from Passaic, Bergen, Morris and Sussex Counties.

Fifty six arrests took place in the City of Paterson during the initiative. The individuals arrested were residents of Essex, Bergen, Hudson, Morris, Passaic, Rockland, Somerset, Sussex, and Union Counties

Valdes, along with Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo, Morris County Prosecutor Frederic Knapp, Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch, Sheriff Richard Berdnik and Chiefs Joseph Borell, Mark Centurione, Angelo Daniele, Richard McAuliffe, Steven Post, Robert Bracco, Luis Guzman, Troy Oswald, Charbel Atie, Joseph Walker, Robert Coyle, Robert Kronyak, James Clarke, Timothy Storbeck, and Chief Eileen Tiernan announced that an alternative to immediate incarceration was extended to individuals suffering from opioid addiction as they were offered substance abuse treatment after their arrests for drug offenses. 

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As a result of this operation, 56 were arrested for possession of a controlled dangerous substance, namely, heroin. Each individual arrested was privately screened for substance abuse treatment. Of all the individuals arrested, 42 people, or 75%, accepted substance abuse treatment and either made arrangements to begin out-patient treatment at a later date or were transported directly to treatment facilities by a member of law enforcement. Acceptance of treatment was not in lieu of arrest.

Valdes said that “Operation Helping Hand” was a tremendous success in Passaic County because  of the efforts of the members of law enforcement and the dedicated recovery specialists who worked together to offer help to those suffering from addiction.

“To be clear, acceptance of treatment was not in lieu of arrest. Individuals will be held responsible for their criminal drug offenses,” she said. “I have seen firsthand the effects of heroin addiction not only to the users but also to those loved ones who witness the horrific consequences of addiction, and the communities that are directly impacted by open-air drug markets. For many of the users arrested it was a wake-up call; that we in law enforcement will continue our efforts to stop the distribution of heroin, but at the same time offer hope.Hope that you address the addiction through treatment and support of family. Thankfully an overwhelming majority heeded that wake-up call. I hope that their path to a new life without addiction has begun.”

In 2017, Passaic County saw a total of 192 Narcan Deployments. Narcan, which is also referred to as Naloxone, is a medicine administered by way of a spray into the nostrils of someone suffering from an opioid overdose in an attempt to counteract that overdose. In addition, as of June 15, 2018, there have been 20 fatal overdoses in Passaic County.

With the collaborative effort of law enforcement and substance abuse treatment facilities, it is the mission of all those involved that the number of people afflicted with opioid addiction eventually decreases and that those who once suffered from its grasp can lead fruitful, productive, and healthy lives.

Many thanks to the following agencies who assisted in this operation: the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department, the Bloomingdale Police Department, the Clifton Police Department, the Haledon Police Department, the Hawthorne Police Department, the Little Falls Police Department, the North Haledon Police Department, the Passaic Police Department, the Paterson Police Department, the Prospect Park Police Department, the Ringwood Police Department, the Totowa Police Department, the Wanaque Police Department, the Wayne Police Department, the West Milford Police Department, and the Woodland Park Police Department.
This endeavor would not have been possible without the support, dedication and commitment from all the drug abuse treatment specialists, especially those from Eva’s Village for providing trained peer recovery specialists who assisted in pairing those seeking treatment with the appropriate programs and facilities.