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Drug sweep yields dozens of arrests in boro projects

A police vehicle passes by Queensbridge Houses, where earlier this month authorities conducted a massive drug sweep.
TimesLedger Newspapers

More than 50 people were charged last week in a massive drug sweep through two Queens housing projects as a result of an eight-month investigation, District Attorney Richard Brown announced.

Undercover police officers purchased heroin, cocaine, oxycodone, methamphetamine and marijuana on hundreds of occasions at the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City and the Ravenswood Houses in Astoria before descending on the New York Housing Authority-operated projects and arresting 38 suspects, according to the DA, but 13 are still at large.

“The defendants are charged with selling marijuana and an assortment of dangerous drugs — including heroin, cocaine, oxycodone — in and around two of the city’s housing developments,” Brown said in a May 16 statement. “The charges are serious and some defendants upon conviction face sentences of up to 10 years in prison.”

The alleged drug peddlers range in age from 18 to 57 and are charged with various crimes, including several classes of criminal sale of a controlled substance, the most serious punishable by up to 10 years behind bars, according to prosecutors.

Some of the 51 were charged with varying degrees of criminal sale of marijuana, the DA said.

Brown indicated that busting drug dealers in highly populated housing complexes has been a longstanding priority throughout his tenure as district attorney.

“These arrests are just the latest results of a coordinated law enforcement and prosecutorial anti-drug initiative that began soon after I took office more than 20 years ago,” he said. “Since that time, we have targeted hundreds of drug dealers in public housing developments throughout Queens and in private housing developments like Lefrak City and have put a significant dent in the drug trafficking which has long troubled the residents of these developments. We will continue to work together with our police officers and our elected officials and community leaders to keep our citizens safe.”

The operation began last August, when the NYPD’s Queens Narcotics Division partnered with the DA’s Narcotics Investigation Bureau to make a dent in drug trafficking within the projects.

The team had a stated mission of first identifying the alleged players, then gathering evidence through undercover buys before eventually making arrests.

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly praised the work of the officers and prosecutors.

“NYPD officers patrol and perform dangerous undercover work in public housing developments to protect law-abiding New Yorkers who are disproportionately afflicted by illicit drugs and violence,” he said in a statement. “I commend the NYPD Narcotics Borough Queens detectives, especially those working undercover, and investigators in the district attorney’s office for bringing to justice those who subject their neighbors to criminal harm.”

Along with arresting the 38 people, officers also recovered drugs, drug paraphernalia and cash after executing seven court-authorized search warrants, the DA said.

The Queensbridge Houses is the largest public housing development in North America, with more than 3,000 units and 7,000 residents. It covers nearly 50 acres, according to the DA, while Ravenswood Houses contains about 2,000 units and houses about 4,500 residents.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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