Last week, the Manhattan district attorney indicted 19 suspected members of East Harlem’s East Army gang. The indictment, D.A. Cyrus Vance Jr. said on Friday, “will help combat the increasingly violent criminal activity occurring at the East River Houses,” the housing project where the gang is based. On Monday we challenged that statement because the East River Houses have not, in fact, been increasingly violent.
As we explained:
The East River Houses might well be a better place to live in now, in the days and weeks and months following the arrests. But it was certainly not an “increasingly violent” place before the sweep.
The NYPD’s Housing Bureau statistics show that crime has declined at the complex over the past year. The number of reported crimes at the complex from January to October decreased 26 percent from that stretch last year.
By comparison, the crime rate at housing projects city-wide has dipped 5.6 percent.
At East River, robbery, burglary, rape, and grand larceny numbers are all down from last year. There were no homicides at the development last year; this year there has been one.
This has not been a precinct-wide trend. The crime rate at all 13 developments in East Harlem’s 23rd Precinct has dipped 4.9 percent, but six of those developments experienced a rise in reported crimes.
The 23rd Precinct as a whole has seen a sharp increase in shootings and homicides. Last year, through the beginning of October, there were two murders in the precinct, and this year there were four. The number of shooting victims has jumped from eight to 15.
The 19 defendants in the indictment faced only drug charges. They had sold crack or heroin to undercover officers. Prosecutors did not charge any of them with violent crimes and the announcement of the indictment, unlike past announcement of gang sweep indictments, did not tie the defendants to any shootings or murders.
Drug dealing, of course, does not often exist in a vacuum of nonviolence. And the East Army gang, the D.A.’s office told the Voice this week, was involved in a majority of the precinct’s shootings. According to the D.A.’s numbers, 11 of the precinct’s 15 shootings this year “involved East Army,” and two of the four homicides “are related to East Army.”
So while the gang might not be tied to a rise in violence within the East River Houses, it is tied to the precinct’s overall rise in shootings. The details of those ties remain murky.
The Voice asked the D.A.’s office how often an East Army affiliate was the suspected shooter among those 11 shootings and two homicides; whether any East Army affiliates have been arrested or charged for those incidents; and whether any of the 19 defendants in the gang indictment are suspected of participating in those incidents.
The D.A.’s office declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigations.