New York City Police Department

Press Release | NO. 2003-033

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release # 033
Thursday, April 10, 2003



New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly And Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan Announce Major Narcotics Takedown Involving 38 Arrests

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly and Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan today announced the arrest of 38 individuals as part of the takedown of a major crack cocaine gang last night on West 146th Street in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. Those arrested have been charged with 100 counts of sale and possession of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics.

Detectives also executed 17 search warrants, and recovered about $91,000 in cash and more than 2 kilos of crack and powder cocaine.

Police Commissioner Kelly said: "These individuals sold large quantities of crack cocaine every night from dusk to dawn, and in the process held their neighbors hostage in their own homes. By ripping up
this gang by its roots, we have restored a sense of peace and security to the people who live on West 146th Street. I want to commend all the detectives who made this takedown a success."

Special Narcotics Prosecutor Brennan said: "This case demonstrates our commitment to removing drug gangs, regardless of how long they have been or how comfortable they have become in a building. I am sure the hundreds of residents in this neighborhood are relieved that they can go about their daily business free of the fear and danger caused by this drug gang."

Today's arrests mark the culmination of "Operation Nighthawk," an undercover investigation that began in September 2002. Detectives made numerous purchases of one-quarter-gram tins of crack at $10 a tin. After gathering sufficient evidence, they also installed four pole cameras to monitor the drug-dealing operations. They discovered that the criminal organization not only prepared its own crack from powder cocaine, it also used the front doors of four apartment buildings, where many gang members lived, to sell tins around the clock. These apartments were at 545, 546, 550 and 552 West 146th Street.

Police estimate the dealers were selling about 90 kilos of crack cocaine per year, making up to $3 million annually.

The deeply entrenched gang used several tactics to avoid being detected. Dealers carried small amounts of drugs and cash to reduce their exposure to criminal charges. A vast network of lookouts, each equipped with Nextel two-way radios, was instructed to issue warnings when police vehicles entered the block. Escape routes were planned and dealers were trained on ways to destroy drug stashes.

As a result of the all-night drug-dealing operation, many of the buildings' law-abiding residents had to push past lines of waiting crack buyers just to get in and out of their own buildings.

The investigation identified nine apartments controlled by the operation in the four buildings and yielded information on how the group gained and maintained control over the apartments. In some instances, they paid legitimate tenants thousands of dollars in cash so that the gang could pay rent under the name on a legitimate lease. Ring members sought out tenants and paid cash for the use of their apartments to stash drugs and drug proceeds. They also rented and sublet apartments under the names of workers or other associates of the group.



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