Authorities have charged 18 people from around the region as part of a months long investigation into drug sales, gambling and violent crime in the Englewood-area.
One of those nabbed in the sweep was a seasonal parks worker who was dealing ecstasy from a concession stand in Englewood's Mackay Park, City Police Chief Arthur O'Keefe said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
City resident Shameeka Drakeford, 29, sold "mollies," a pure form of ecstasy, in a park busy with children, police said.
Also charged were alleged Teaneck drug dealers Durelle Whitening and his Cedar Lane neighbor, 31-year-old Anthony Trumpet.
Whitening, 28, was the gunman in a Sept. 9 shooting incident in Teaneck, according to the county prosecutor's office. He was staying with Trumpet, and investigators said a search turned up three handguns, one using the same caliber as the bullets found at the Teaneck crime scene.
Another man, 40-year-old Perth Amboy resident Joseph Green, was arrested Sept. 14 after selling crack cocaine in Teaneck, prosecutors charged. Detectives seized more than $6,000 in cash along with about 20 grams of cocaine and a handgun.
Police took down an illegal gambling den on Central Avenue in Englewood allegedly run by 40-year-old Vaughn Sims, of Englewood.
"At these gambling games you have individuals who have long criminal histories," said Englewood Detective Lt. Timothy Torell, who led the investigation.
The games should not be viewed as minor crimes, he added. Detectives called in the Bergen County Police SWAT Team and turned up about $18,000 in cash at the raid.
"We've had incidents where shots have been exchanged between people and those bullets don't stop. They go through walls, they go through houses and they can harm innocent people," Torell told reporters.
The arrests came in response to a series of crimes in Englewood, including a violent struggle for control of ecstasy sales in the area, according to O'Keefe. Police had responded to drive-by shootings, violent robberies and home invasions.
"The criminal activity that has plagued this community has been steadily increasing, which ultimately inspired this police response," Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said in a statement.
O'Keefe and his department teamed up with the prosecutor's office to take on the crime wave.
"We believe that we've made a significant dent with regard to drug trafficking and violent situations within the City of Englewood," O'Keefe said.
Some of the dealers were accused of peddling the drugs not far from police headquarters and the city's public pool.
"There was drug dealing in the King Gardens Apartment complex, not more than a hundred yards from the front door of the police department," O'Keefe said.
Many targeted in the crackdown were repeat offenders with extensive criminal records, the chief said.
Detectives searched the Hackensack home of suspected drug dealer Akeem Boone, where they allegedly found about 20 grams of crack cocaine, drug packaging paraphernalia and a loaded handgun reported stolen from North Carolina. Boone, 27, was charged in August 2011 with burglary and other offenses after a high speed chase in Sparta Township. Prosecutors said he failed to turn himself in on the latest warrants and is at large.
Authorities also raided West Palisade Avenue jewelry store Golden Chocolate, which O'Keefe said did not complete required pawn shop forms and where police found stolen jewelry.
The store's owner, Galsun Khudaynatov of Fort Lee, was charged with 16 city ordinances violations.
Residents from towns including Hackensack and Teaneck, face charges. They range is ages from 19 to 43 and were not linked.
A full list of those charged in the investigation is available at the prosecutor's office website.
First published 5:10 p.m. Wednesday. Updated 10:40 p.m.