Last Wednesday, New York City police officers performed the largest gang takedown in the city’s history. Officials are now investigating whether the public housing residents were living in safe conditions as required by the law.
According to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, nearly 700 New York Police Department officers and federal agents along with helicopters and armed trucks executed a pre-dawn raid to take down two prominent drug gangs from top to bottom.
A recorded 88 people were in custody by the afternoon, and charges were brought against 120 gang members.
According to the prosecutor, the event was the result of a 16-month investigation which began when authorities noticed a surge in violence in the Bronx, near the Eastchester Gardens housing projects, which are home to 2,000 people.
Two prominent gangs, 2Fly and the Big Money Bosses have been linked to dozens of stabbings, beatings and robberies in the area, including the stabbing to death of a 15-year-old and the killing of a 92-year-old hit by a stray bullet.
Bharara said certain 2Fly gang members used a playground at the center of the housing project as a place to store guns and sell drugs, while others operated a few blocks away, harassing homes and neighborhood stores. Both gangs used social media as a way of promoting and growing their organizations.
“We bring these charges so that all New Yorkers, including those in public housing, can live their lives as they deserve: free of drugs, free of guns and free of gang violence,” said Bharara.
The civil division of the prosecutor’s office is now looking at whether housing provided by the New York City Housing Authority is “decent, safe, sanitary, and in good repair,” as is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The prosecutor spoke to how living conditions, such as proper lighting, working elevators, and mold-free apartments, can affect whether “the rule of law reigns or the chaos of a gang takes root” in housing projects like these.
The Housing Authority claims that the health and well-being of its residents is its top priority, saying “many conditions influence the presence of gang and other illegal activity, and we continue to work closely with the NYPD to address these challenges.”
The large-scale raid came eight days after Bharara pressed charges against 36 members of drug trafficking gangs which operated out of Housing Authority complexes in East Harlem.
One of those federally charged last Wednesday was a drug dealer already serving time in prison for the killing of the 92-year-old hit by a stray bullet in 2009. The victim, Sadie Mitchell, was watching television in her Bronx home when the bullet went through her living room window and punctured her lung.
A couple days later, police arrested Jamal Blair, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon during questioning.
Thank you to the New York Police Department for persistently working to eliminate crime and improve safety for public housing residents in their city.