Chester is one of those
picture-perfect towns. But police say even this quaint community is now forced
to deal with big city crime.
"It's certainly a sizable drug
bust for this area and probably a sizable drug bust for the state,"
Chester Police Sgt. Mark Phelps said.
Tuesday, police arrested 10 people for
allegedly selling drugs out of Eric Hale and Kaleena Smith's Chester apartment.
Investigators say $20,000 in cash was stashed in the toilet, VCR and their
child's bedroom. Police say they also seized $30,000 in drugs. They believe
Vermonter Ryan Bartley as well as seven New Jersey men were helping the couple
sell crack cocaine, heroin and OxyContin to hundreds of customers in the
greater Springfield area.
"They're all coming up from the
city, have made some local connections here and have basically moved in, taken
over an apartment and have been using it for their distribution network,"
"I'd watch them walk in with
duffle bags," said Rodney Hart, the property manager at Pleasant Brook.
Hart says he and his neighbors were
terrified by the revolving door of characters living in C-3. Background checks
revealed many of the men have violent criminal histories.
"Meanwhile, there's a lot of kids
here and I think that is what bothered me," Hart said. "They're right
there in the middle of it."
Police say Smith used her 3-year-old
son as a shield when armed officers raided her home. Now that the crew is in
custody and the little boy is in the state's care, Hart says he can finally
"Relieved. Safe," he said.
You'd think that a large group of
out-of-state drug dealers would stick out in a small town like this, but police
say they were adept at staying out of sight. And it wasn't just their alleged
dealing that made them so dangerous.
"It's our understanding in
talking with the Jersey City task force that a lot of these gentlemen have
blood connections to the Blood street gang down there," Phelps said.
Police say Vermont addicts are trading
the alleged gang members guns for drugs. They admit this roundup is only a
short term solution.
"It's going to make the drugs in
the region a lot harder to come by. But in the long run they'll come back in,
they'll set-up and they'll be back in business," Phelps said.
All 10 suspects pled not guilty. They could face decades
behind bars and the possibility of federal charges.