Heroin Ring Busted in Asbury Park
County, Neptune pledge continued support to city
    A heroin ring, operating out of Asbury Park, has been dismantled and eliminated, said law enforcement officials this week, with the arrest of four Asbury Park men.
   “The number one heroin dealer in Asbury Park is off the streets because of local, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, working together to make it happen, said Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Robert Honecker. “The community of Asbury Park is safer because of this cooperative effort.”
 Meanwhile, City Manager Terry Reidy said yesterday that the County Narcotics Strike Force, its Major Crimes Unit, the county Gang Task Force, TNT,  the city’s Quality of Life Unit and officers from neighboring Neptune will keep the pressure on in areas where it is needed in the city as long as necessary.
   “They have made a commitment to us and will stay until we can take back our streets,” Reidy said. “We have all the hot spots covered. The recent arrests is the result of us asking for them to step up the activity. They are here and they will stay here.”
   Deputy Mayor Jim Bruno said the help from federal, county and local law enforcement is “well needed.”
   The arrests over the weekend  were part of the third phase of almost a two-year effort by  the Drug Enforcement Administration and other law enforcement agencies.  The arrests were made after months of surveillance, undercover operations, and a federal wiretap.
   It resulted in an Asbury Park Organization heroin cell being dismantled and eliminated, officials said.
 Lawson June, president of a city Neighborhood Watch group, said he was pleased with the action.
 “Drugs are a problem,” he said. “I think the Asbury Park police have done as much as they could with what they had. Under the circumstances, they have done a good job.”
 Doug Eschner, a longtime city resident, said he also was pleased with the arrests, but believes it is just a fraction of the drug dealing in the city.
 “We have to really start going after the small guys, too,” he said. “People are standing on every corner saying ‘yo, yo yo’ wanting to buy or sell drugs. “Eighty-five percent of the people arrested for drugs are from other towns. As long as you have these buyers coming in, you’re going to have the drugs. We’ve got to stop these guys from coming in and buying drugs. We should put their pictures up on billboards.”
 Another longtime resident, Vernice McGriff, said people need to feel safe.
 “We have to discourage the drug people from being in Asbury Park and stop other people from coming in to buy drugs,” she said.
 The leader of the heroin cell was Kurtis Barnes, also known as ‘Gotti.’ Barnes led the organization which sold heroin with street names such as ‘Hell Raiser,’ ‘Da wire,’ ‘Funny Money’ and ‘Black Rain.’ The targeted criminals were responsible for the distribution of heroin throughout Monmouth and other New Jersey counties.
 “The Asbury Park Organization heroin cell will not be plaguing this community with drugs anymore,” said Special Agent in Charge Michael Pasterchick Jr. “This investigation represents the best efforts of federal, state, county and local law enforcement working together for one goal, arresting and dismantling the drug trafficking organizations that infect a whole neighborhood with drugs. Not only did we eliminate and dismantle this drug organization from top to bottom, but we will continue to investigate and arrest criminals that try to poison the citizens of Asbury Park and others communities with drugs.”
 Arrested were:
Kurtis Barnes (AKA - Gotti), DOB: 09-07-1978, Asbury Park
Darren Sims (AKA - DS), DOB: 05-18-1976, Asbury Park
Antonio Grant (AKA - Geechi), DOB: 01-17-1979, Asbury Park
Michael Collins (AKA Mikey), DOB: 08-20-1974, Asbury Park    The operation was a continuation of two previous enforcement efforts that targeted the most violent criminals in Asbury Park. The joint venture was spearheaded by DEA’s Mobile Enforcement Team (MET), a specialized squad dedicated to attacking drug trafficking and urban violence in close coordination with counties and local authorities.
 To date, 27 federal defendants arrested in conjunction with the Asbury Park Organization have pled guilty and are awaiting lengthy federal sentences.