WEST TRENTON, NJ (Ewing Township) – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Colonel Patrick J. Callahan Friday announced that Lieutenant Lawrence Williams, of the New Jersey State Police Trafficking North Unit, is the recipient of the 2019 Trooper of the Year Award for establishing the Opioid Enforcement Task Force (OETF). During a 1-year period, the OETF spearheaded 27 criminal investigations and operations, which resulted in the dismantling of 6 and disruption of 4 narcotics processing mills, 53 arrests, and the seizure of nearly $3 million worth of heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.
As a result of the nationwide opioid epidemic that has impacted New Jersey, Lt. Williams developed new tactics and a new investigative approach to combat the flow of opioids within the state. Traditionally, law enforcement agencies would begin an investigation into a trafficking network from the bottom of the supply chain, which are the users and street dealers. While this strategy could be effective, the resulting investigations were often lengthy, and as investigators were working their way to the top of the supply chain, people were continuing to overdose and die.
Lt. Williams determined that the amount of overdoses and overdose-related deaths could be proportionately decreased if law enforcement could dismantle or disrupt the opioid supply more quickly. He subsequently identified various “choke points” within the narcotics production process, which would allow law enforcement to expedite the identification of narcotic processing mills much more efficiently than traditional practices.
Once Lt. Williams established a methodology for this strategy, he sought to create a task force, which would leverage various New Jersey State Police assets, including the Office of Drug Monitoring and Analysis, Field Operations, the Office of Forensic Sciences, and the Office of Intelligence Management in addition to members from the Office of the Attorney General, federal partners and 14 partnering agencies within New Jersey, which are the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Passaic County Prosecutors Office, Passaic County Sheriff’s Office, Morris County Prosecutor’s Office, Morris County Sheriff’s Office, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Nutley Township Police Department, Cliffside Park Police Department, Hudson County Sheriff’s Office, Middletown Township Police Department, Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, Trenton Police Department, Hamilton Township (Mercer County) Police Department, and the Voorhees Township Police Department.
Under the guidance of Lt. Williams, the OETF experienced immediate success in their operations. During a 1-year period, these operations netted more than 41 kilograms of raw heroin, 250,000 doses of heroin, 10 kilograms of fentanyl, more than 40,000 fentanyl pills, 1 kilogram of cocaine, 8 firearms, and more than $661,400 cash.
The New Jersey State Police Drug Monitoring Initiative tracked several brands of opioids sized by the task force. They determined that 4 dismantled mills alone have been linked to a total of 408 overdoses, 150 suspected fatal overdoses and 258 suspected non-fatal overdoses statewide. Drug traffickers typically package heroin and/or fentanyl in a wax fold, which is considered one dose. They also market their “brand” of drug by ink-stamping the outside of the wax fold with a unique image, word, or phrase.
“Lieutenant Williams recognized that traditional law enforcement strategies were not stemming the tide of the deadly opioid epidemic and decided to do something about it,” said Attorney General Grewal. “He developed a creative strategy that shut down 10 deadly mills where drug dealers, not chemists, mixed lethal batches of heroin and fentanyl. His work has not only saved lives and improved communities, but also represents the best of the State Police.”
“What strikes me as perhaps the most important part of Lt. Williams’ endeavor to establish this task force was not his diligence in pitching his ideas to his command, the countless hours of paperwork for approvals, grants, and personnel, or even the comprehensive plan for implementing his strategies, rather it was his impetus for creating the task force in the first place, which was driven by his desire to save lives,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. “I am proud and honored to name Lt. Lawrence Williams #5415 as the ‘2019 Trooper of the Year.’ His commitment and dedication to the citizens of New Jersey exemplify our core values of Honor, Duty, and Fidelity.”
Every year, the New Jersey State Police selects an enlisted member or members to receive the “Trooper of the Year Award.” Recipients are awarded a red ribbon encased by a gold frame, which is to always be worn on the uniform. It is the highest honor a trooper can receive from within the Division. All recipients are honored for their outstanding performances, an honor which reflects great credit upon themselves and the New Jersey State Police.