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Last week, Mercer County authorities seized $200,000 in heroin in a joint narcotics investigation, according to a press release by the Office of the Mercer County Prosecutor.

According to the press release, surveillance officers positioned in Philadelphia observed Cristian Baez-Belliard exit his residence with a large item concealed under his jacket.  Officers followed him to Ewing, NJ, where he met with an individual identified as Daquan Baylor and exchanged suspected drugs, after which the officers promptly arrested them both. 

“Baylor, 26, and Baez-Belliard, 25, were each charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession with the intent to distribute,” said the press release. “The prosecutor’s office has filed a motion to detain Baylor. Baez-Belliard was released pending future court proceedings.”

After searching Baylor’s vehicle, the report states that officers found 150 bricks of heroin and $20,980 in cash.

Because of the incident, officers obtained a warrant to search Baez-Belliard’s residence, in which they found a heroin “mill” containing approximately 819 grams of suspected heroin, approximately 15 bricks (750 bags) of suspected heroin. At the residence, officers also arrested three other individuals, charged with numerous narcotic-related offenses. The press release said that the approximate street value of the seized heroin is $196,800 and the total money seized was $23,998.

“Despite having been charged, every defendant is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” said the press release.

Baylor was identified by detectives as the individual responsible for bringing large quantities of heroin to Mercer County from Philadelphia. Philadelphia itself has been struggling with a serious  heroin crisis. The Economist called Philadelphia “perhaps the most cruelly affected of big cities by the opioid epidemic.”

The Economist and the New York Times explained that estimated heroin overdoses in 2017 were around 1,200, almost 300 deaths more than the AIDS crisis at its worst. This is a rise from 902 deaths in 2016 and 702 deaths in 2015. Philadelphia and its people continue to fight against the epidemic.

“Like most places, Philadelphia is arresting drug dealers, reducing opioid pain prescriptions, running ads about the dangers of opioid abuse and distributing naloxone,” wrote Tina Rosenberg of the New York Times. “Philadelphia has been successful. There is no waiting list for treatment.”

The city of Princeton and Mercer County as a whole have felt some effects of the epidemic for the years of its duration. In 2015, Princeton police arrested five people for heroin possession and one for heroin distribution, according to Planet Princeton. In Jan. 2017, another individual was arrested by Princeton Police for possession of heroin.

Organizations within Princeton have also been working diligently to combat the issue. In response to the arrests in 2015, Princeton High School held a two-hour forum sponsored by the Princeton Health Department, Corner House, the Princeton Alcohol and Drug Alliance, and the Princeton Police Department, in which the dangers of heroin and the importance of dialogue on the subject were discussed.

“We need to talk about this,” Michael DeLeon, non-profit organizer and activist, told the forum, according to Town Topics. “Talk to your kids about drugs over dinner. It’s a conversation you have to have every week. Get informed. You need to know. The more you know, the better off you are.”

According to the Office of the Mercer County Prosecutor press release, the arrests in Ewing and Philadelphia concluded what had been a six-month joint investigation into heroin distribution in Mercer County conducted by the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force, Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control, and Drug Enforcement Administration HIDTA 4.

Philadelphia Prevention Point, the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, the Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control, and the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General were not available for comment at the time of this publication.

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