Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and New York City Police Department Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of 18 defendants for possessing and selling crack cocaine and marijuana in East Harlem. Many of these defendants operated near East 118th Street and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. The District Attorney’s Crime Strategies Unit and the NYPD’s Manhattan North Narcotics Bureau began a joint investigation in the fall of 2011 in response to a marked upswing in violence in this neighborhood, and identified feuds among gangs as the cause for much of the area’s violence. Today’s 81-count indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy and drug-related charges. Additionally, JAMES IRONS, 21, is charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second and Third Degrees.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “In addition to circulating crack and marijuana among apartment buildings, the subjects arrested in this case armed themselves with illegal guns and were associates of the defendant in a shooting that killed a young man last summer. They boasted about drug dealing and retaliatory violence on YouTube and on Facebook. NYPD detectives and investigators in the District Attorney’s office focused their efforts on the gang members responsible, and with the arrests announced today are returning some measure of peace and safety to law-abiding residents of East Harlem. I commend them on this case.
“Areas where there is a high prevalence of drug sales are often breeding grounds for violence, said District Attorney Vance. “It is no accident that we are focusing on this neighborhood – it is part of a deliberative strategy based on intelligence gathered by my Office’s Crime Strategies Unit and the NYPD. Since January 2011, there have been 5 fatal shootings, 22 non-fatal shootings, and 33 documented shots fired in the immediate area that several gangs call home in East Harlem. To make this neighborhood safer, law enforcement is using a coordinated approach to target drug sales there. Together with the NYPD, we will use every tool at our disposal to prosecute those who display such disregard for the well-being of their neighborhoods.
According to documents filed in court and statements made on the record in court, from approximately February 2012 to February 2013, several of the defendants are charged with selling or agreeing to sell crack cocaine to undercover police officers on dozens of occasions in the vicinity of East 118th Street and Lexington Avenue. During this same period, multiple defendants also sold to undercover police officers marijuana that they packaged in “Sour Power” candy wrappers. Many of these drug sales took place inside or in front of a convenience store, or inside a private residential building. The defendants in this group were loosely affiliated with one another, and no top-down organizational structure is alleged in this indictment.
In the fall of 2011, District Attorney Vance’s Crime Strategies Unit, in its block-by-block examination of street violence in partnership with the NYPD, identified certain sections of East Harlem as the most violent in Manhattan, including the area where the acts underlying these charges took place. Over the past few years, there has been significant gun violence in the area.
In August 2012, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD’s Manhattan North Narcotics Bureau announced the indictment of 19 members of the 20 BLOCC and Flow Boyz crews for operating open-air drug markets in East Harlem. Since the dismantling of these crews, there has been a significant decline in the number of shootings in the surrounding neighborhoods. Prior to this August indictment, from January 2011 to August 2012, there were 4 fatal shootings, 19 non-fatal shootings, and at least 28 additional shots fired. After the dismantling of these crews, the number of shootings in these neighborhoods dropped dramatically – 1 fatal shooting, 3 non-fatal shootings, and 5 additional shots fired.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.