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Phillipsburg targets downtown drug activity

By Trish Hartman, Reporter, THartman@wfmz.com
Published On: Aug 18 2014 06:13:36 AM CDT

Phillipsburg cracks down on drugs

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. -

Phillipsburg, New Jersey, is cracking down on drug activity.

Cops say they arrested 14 people for drug-related offenses in a two-week span.

69 News spoke with one of the people arrested, who did not want to be identified. While he faces charges of possessing and dealing heroin, he says he's never used it or sold it.

"It couldn't have been true, because I'm on probation for something else. Why would I go ahead and risk my freedom to get in more trouble?" said the suspect.
He says officers are targeting the wrong people.

"Yes, they are cleaning up the streets, but they're getting more users than sellers," he said.

The suspect said he plans to fight the charges.

The Phillipsburg police chief had no comment on the suspect's claims.

Town Council President Todd Tersigni says the 14 arrests were a joint effort between the mayor's office and Phillipsburg Police.

He says the operation is ongoing in an effort to control the drug problem in Phillipsburg.

"We do have some problems and we're getting to a point where we just won't tolerate it anymore," said Tersigni.

Former Phillipsburg resident Jason DeVito says he's a former heroin addict who's been clean for three years.

He says as someone who's served time for drugs... he's glad to hear about the recent arrests in Phillipsburg.

"They're trying to clean up the community for the better. I feel that if people are arrested for drug-related offenses that they are given opportunity to correct their lives," said DeVito.

He also hopes those who are struggling with addiction can get the help they need through rehab programs.

"The disease of addiction is very powerful. It will kill you, just as quick as cancer will. And I decided to turn my life over to the program and get my life right," said DeVito.

Business owner Annamarie Szipocs says the two arrests two doors down from her thrift store, The Yard Sale Store on South Main Street, were alarming.

"It's really scary being a mom of four kids to know that it's so close. Literally so close to home. But at the same time I try to look for the silver lining in it, thinking at least now they're doing something and they're getting it off the streets," said Szipocs.

Several of the people arrested were charged with intent to distribute within 500 feet of a public park.

People who live near Shappell Park like Dave Weidner said they were happy to hear about the arrests, especially given how many children use this park.

"There's a lot of activities going on for the kids over there," said Weidner. "I got a 6-year-old grandson and I got a 2-year-old granddaughter that come around here and go to the park all the time."