"We believe some of the people arrested either know about or were responsible for" the murders and shootings, he said.
The primary target of the investigation, authorities said, was Noel Gonzalez, 43, of the 1200 block of Collings Road in Camden. Gonzalez was charged with leading a narcotics trafficking network, an offense that carries a possible life sentence.
Gonzalez, arrested at his home, was one of 26 people taken into custody Wednesday morning as state, county, and local police fanned out across the city in a series of raids. Authorities were still seeking 15 others.
Chiesa said 28 of the 41 individuals charged were members of the Gonzalez drug network. They were described as members of two street gangs, the Netas and the Latin Kings.
Thirteen others charged were dealers, the attorney general said, who did business with the network. These included two reputed drug traffickers listed on the city’s "Top 10" chart of most violent offenders, Joseph "Joey Crack" Serrano, 30, and Kevin "ICU" Hannah, 47.
Camden Deputy Police Chief Mike Lynch said the arrests targeted one of the city’s high-profile drug areas.
"The Atlantic Square neighborhood has been plagued by violence for decades," he said. "It’s a community under siege."
Authorities said the drug ring operated out of "open air" markets located at Fourth and Royden, West and Royden, Royden and Henry, and Fourth and Spruce Streets.
Authorities conceded that the investigation targeted just one of several highly lucrative drug networks in the city and said law enforcement would continue to target those organizations.
"The value of long-term investigations ... is that they enable us to take down the upper echelons of drug networks, not just the lower-level dealers," said Stephen J. Taylor, director of the attorney general’s division of criminal justice.
"The culture of violence is rooted in the culture of drug dealing," said Chiesa, who described the Gonzalez network as "highly structured" and "tightly controlled."
He said street-level drug dealers reported to "set managers" who in turn answered to "case workers." Gonzalez sat atop the organization, he said.
Those working the corners routinely sold heroin from "bundles" that were provided by the set managers. A bundle consisted of 14 bags — waxed paper folded and stamped with a brand — that sold for $10 each. The proceeds from the sale of the first 10 bags, authorities said, went to Gonzalez. The case worker received the $10 from the 11th bag and the set managers and lower level operatives shared in the last $30 generated from a bundle.
Street level sales included individual bags and also the sale of entire bundles, according to authorities.
Gonzalez, Serrano, Hannah, and the 23 others arrested Wednesday were being held in the Camden County Jail on bail ranging from $300,000 to $1,000,000.
Contact George Anastasia at 856-779-3846 or firstname.lastname@example.org.