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Two weeks after a sergeant with the NYPD’s anti-gang unit was shot in the leg in South Jamaica, authorities announced a yearlong investigation into gang-related drug activity in the area that culminated in 43 arrests along with the seizure of three handguns and a cache of drugs and paraphernalia.
Narcotics investigators in the Queens district attorney’s office and city Police Department started their investigation last September, when they attributed a sharp rise in shootings near and around South Road and Sutphin Boulevard to the presence of a gang selling marijuana and narcotics.
For nearly a year, undercover officers posing as customers made purchases of cocaine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, diazepam and marijuana, according to DA Richard Brown.
Earlier this month, Sgt. Craig Bier was shot when he and his partner gave chase to a man they had attempted to stop near the South Jamaica Houses. Bier’s injury was non-life-threatening and he was released from the hospital days afterward, although his suspected shooter, identified by the police as John Thomas, was still at large.
With the announcement that 43 individuals — ranging in age from 16 to 55 — had been arrested on drug charges, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly took the opportunity to renew the call for the community to come forward with information about Thomas’ whereabouts.
“The arrests of individuals intent on using city streets for drug sales and associated violence is paramount to ensuring residents do not live in fear when walking through their neighborhood,” he said. “Two weeks ago an NYPD sergeant was shot in the same Jamaica neighborhood where many of these arrests took place and that shooting is a reminder that police officers patrolling neighborhoods or conducting undercover investigations perform their duties often at great risk to themselves.”
City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) had scheduled a news conference for Monday morning in which he planned to call on Thomas to turn himself in, but he abruptly cancelled the event hours before it was to begin. It was rescheduled later in the week.
Brown said search warrants executed at nine locations turned up one .40-calibur and two .22-calibur handguns, as well as 11 ounces of cocaine, five crack pipes, three bags containing crack cocaine, 13 bags containing marijuana and 68 assorted pills.
He said each of the defendants were variously charged with an array of drug charges, some with weapons charges.
“This investigation is another example of police and prosecutors working together to reduce drug dealing that too often plagues our neighborhoods,” Brown said. “We are committed to continue to employ aggressive and innovative tactics to track down and prosecute drug dealers and other criminals who seek to terrorize our communities. It is imperative that we stop those who would flood our streets with drugs and lure our children into lives of crime.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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