Locals say Wash. Sq. drug dealing is rampant

Police Officers Brian Garcia and Annalee Simon addressed the Sixth Precinct Build the Block meeting. Residents at the meeting voiced concerns, in particular, about an uptick in drug sales in Washington Square Park. Photos by Gabe Herman

BY GABE HERMAN | Drugs in Washington Square Park was a main issue discussed at the Feb. 20 Build the Block meeting with the Sixth Precinct and local Village residents. Police discussed their ongoing efforts to address the problem, and residents said the prevalence of drugs is worse than it’s been in many years.

Police Officer Brian Garcia told the meeting, held at Judson Memorial Church, that the Sixth Precinct and Narcotics officers had made more than 40 arrests in the park since the year’s start. He acknowledged that was a high number and did not include summonses that were also issued.

“That shows that all the cops in the Sixth and at Narcotics are doing the best they can to be around the area, to be proactive to arrest people inside [the park],” Garcia said.

Several residents requested more police presence on the west side of the park in the early morning hours, when they said people do all kinds of drugs in broad daylight, plus urinate, defecate and even openly count out pills.

“It’s very unsightly and noticeable, especially in the winter when the park is less crowded,” said one man.

“We are in a critical situation right now,” another local said, adding it reminded him of the crack epidemic in the 1980s.

In recent years, the park’s northwestern corner has been its hot spot for drug dealing. The dealers hang out there at tables added during the park’s last renovation.

Another resident said the police presence seems to be off and on.

“It’s never continuous,” he said.

“It’s a battle,” Garcia said of the ongoing efforts.

The resident also noted that a police van was set up on Waverly Place at the park’s northwest corner about a year and a half ago, which he said helped reduce the drug presence.

“The N.Y.P.D. said it didn’t work, but it did work,” he said.

Others added that there used to be a patrol of bicycle cops in the park. Some asked about bringing back light towers. But Sergeant Daniel Houlahan said the portable diesel-run lights were not easy to get and also drew complaints, though he supported using them.

“The lights are fine — if you have patrol as well,” said one resident. “But if you don’t, the drug dealers are like, ‘Oh good, it’s a light, let me count my money.’”

Police conceded that manpower is an issue. On a good day, there are two officers on foot patrol and another two in a squad car, but often it’s just two police in a car, they said. Houlahan explained there wasn’t a decrease in manpower, but rather a shift, and said he would stress to other supervisors the need for more manpower for the park.

Another issue raised was that when an arrest is made, it takes that officer off the street, to bring the person in to the stationhouse and fill out paperwork.

Houlahan added, regarding drug arrests, whether for buying or selling, “They’re out the next day, so please don’t forget that point.”

A woman said years ago a man was arrested more than 100 times in the park, and it took the Greenwich Village Block Associations writing a letter to officials for the man to see any jail time.

“We have to change the judicial,” she said. “We have to change the judges because they’re the ones letting everyone out.”

A woman who has lived near the park for more than 30 years recently told The Villager she noticed drug and safety concerns starting to get worse a couple of years ago.

She acknowledged the park’s long history of drug dealing. But she said she would like to be able to walk through the park’s west side without being heckled, or be able to sit at an open table in peace. Instead, she now just completely avoids the park’s western side because of the shady characters.

“I recognize that they’re always going to be there,” she said. “My thing is, can I just feel safe? Let’s all go about our business.”

14 Responses to Locals say Wash. Sq. drug dealing is rampant

  1. Maybe more visible policing and less lip service! Give us a break.

  2. Reap what you sow electing a progressive mayor that sides with the criminals.

  3. How is it that the police had the manpower to do hundreds of thousands of stop-and-frisks, yet can’t spare a few cops to be in and around the park in addition to the two in a vehicle? The lack of police presence Is an open invitation to the dealers and users to feel free to come and use the park as their base of operations.

    It’s the park really can generate so many arrests, what about moving a trailer or van to the park to process the paperwork so that the officers don’t have to go back to the precinct to do it?

  4. Locking people up in jail has not been a solution to the drug crisis since the 1960s. All it did was to overcrowd prisons with poor, black and brown people, increase profits for a few companies that own and manage prisons, and penalize with criminal standards what's in fact a public health problem. What is rampant is the homelessness explosion in wealthy areas, whose gentrified, new-comer residents want it to simply disappear from their sights, boosting their real estate investments. The 'not on my neighbor' mentality goes against everything New York, and Greenwich Village in particular, has been about for a century. Address the lack of safe, low income housing in the city, its appalling shelter system, absence of free clinics for addiction and mental illnesses, record poverty, blatant social injustice, staggering income inequality, and of course, liberalize and control all drugs, the way alcohol is, and the drug traffic business won't have many takers. To believe local dealers are the problem this city is facing right now is absolutely senseless, unless someone is willing to do the dirty work and really help it, or has a hidden agenda to protect. Either way, the police is adequately supplied by human and tech resources; they're just busy preventing a terrorist attack, or a major outage of any kind, or real criminal activity that can concretely, and potentially for good, affect the way of life of all of us.

    • This is nonsense. The level of street drug dealing has gone down significantly since the early Nineties, mainly because of aggressive policing and prosecution. Look at the effect on the murder rate.

      The liberals / criminal apologists want to discount the success of the aggressive law enforcement that Rudy Giuliani put in place. But by any and all objective accounts, it's been SPECTACULARLY successful in reducing crime.

  5. My at a glance response: So much for the redesign that began in 2008 and succeeded in destroying the vibe,?the trees, the performance scene, but somehow failed to accomplish one of its stated goals.

  6. Years ago I lived very new the park and walked through often early. I would see the same dealers daily and I once stopped a cop and said I know these people are dealing but nothing ever happens to them. He said yes but they are low levels dealers so we just leave them alone. Go figure.

  7. I am with my kids and their grandparents often in the park, many times a week. I grew up here. What I see every day is NOT okay. It's not ok to have drug dealing 75 feet away from the children's mound. It's not ok to smoke in the park -cigarettes, crack, pot. It's not ok for my kids to ask what's wrong with that guy/girl who is nodding or slumped on the bench with his luggage all around. It's not okay to have litter, broken glass, spit, butts, garbage. It is the same faces -buyers and sellers-every day. It is not a safe place for public enjoyment. Not how I want to protect my investment in the neighborhood or my home. Maybe private police/security is the answer, I don't know but something needs to be done. Times Square for example used to be terrible , it got cleaned up. This can be fixed too. If it's illegal lock 'em up, that's the deterrent.

  8. Hard to bust people selling wood-chips and oregano to unsuspecting tourists, cuz it's not really against the law. Only a fool gets their drugs in the park.

  9. Seems like reported 40 busts thus far is great work by NYPD! That doesn't seem to be for wood chips and oregano. We need more NYPD feet on the street and like the woman from GV Block Association said we need more community action to pressure the judges and DA to prosecute and convict.

  10. Uh, could we get a clue as to what kind of "drugs" are in question here? If we are talkng loose joints or baggies of pot, legalizing cannabis cold go a long way toward undercutting this kind of street traffic.

  11. Sorry, "could go." (Obviously.)

  12. Police report multiple narcotic busts have made there and by repeat offenders: crack, heroin, cocaine, pills, not simply penny ante loose joint dealers which would be replaced by legalization. They also claim this contributes to local crimes by addicts such as shoplifting, etc. It's a real problem.

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