Plainfield Gang Investigation Follow-Up Nets 5 Suspects

PLAINFIELD – New Jersey State Police and Plainfield Police Department arrested five people in a follow up of a 2008 investigation. Two of the five were wanted on indictments for illegally selling firearms including assault weapons.

In early 2008, the New Jersey State Police Street Gang North Unit, in partnership with the Plainfield Police Department, engaged in a cooperative effort to identify and investigate criminal street gangs within the City of Plainfield. The cooperative effort was named Operation Five Spot because the investigation focused on five specific areas that contributed to the majority of street violence within the City of Plainfield.


This cooperative initiative between the New Jersey State Police and the Plainfield Police Department concluded on April 3, 2008 with the arrests of 47 people, the execution of 13 search warrants and the seizure of heroin, crack cocaine, marijuana, and three handguns. Most of those arrested were charged with possession or distribution of drugs. One person was charged with attempted murder.

Those arrested ranged in age from 16 to 69 years old, and many were suspected of being members of local gangs like the Clinton Avenue Posse, the Lib Side Boys, and the 116 Boys, all organizations associated with the Bloods street gang. After the crackdown in April 2008, crime in the affected areas fell by 50 percent and shootings dropped by 60 percent, authorities said. Two suspects named in the original arrest warrants, Jack Hill, 34 and Thomas Townsend, 32 both of Plainfield were not apprehended during the roundup and remained at large.

On May 3, the New Jersey State Police Intelligence Unit, Street Gang North Unit, and the Plainfield Police Department executed arrest warrants for Hill and Thomas. While conducting surveillance in the area of Jack Hill’s residence, State Police detectives observed Joel Zarala carrying a handgun and immediately arrested him, authorities said.

Two others with Zarala were also arrested. Denis Lozano was charged with possession of marijuana and Ashlee Nehez was arrested for disorderly conduct. Zarala and Lozano are both believed to be members of the MS-13 street gang, according to authorities.

A search warrant on Hill’s residence revealed a Glock 40-caliber handgun, $2,100 cash and marijuana, authorities said. Hill was charged with the original indictment as well as possession of a weapon and possession of marijuana. He was lodged at the Union County Jail.

Townsend was later arrested at his place of employment, Shakur’s Deli in Plainfield. He was taken to the Union County Jail, according to authorities.

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