An Upper West Side woman spent months recording drug dealer activity across the street from her apartment – calling the police and public officials about it on a regular basis. But the peddlers only peeled out after she shared her experience on Nextdoor, a social networking platform.
The activity took place on Amsterdam Avenue between 94th and 95th streets, mostly between Chinese restaurant Kam Lai (708 Amsterdam Avenue) and the deli at 706 Amsterdam Avenue.
This went on for about four months, the woman tells us, fed up that despite her calls to the 24th Precinct, Council Member Gale Brewer’s office and the mayor’s office, the dealers continued to operate on the block on a daily basis. She believes they were initially selling edibles but had graduated to “harder stuff.”
When we contacted a representative from Gale Brewer’s office, a representative told us they had no record of complaints from this person. They did, however, tell us they received several calls last summer about drug dealing activity in the same location. This led to a Zoom call between Councilmember Gale Brewer, representatives of the NYPD and D.A. Bragg’s office, and the three nearby residents who had filed complaints at the time. Brewer’s office asked the constituents to follow up with them if the illegal activity continued, but they did not receive any subsequent reports.
It’s unclear if the activity stopped completely before returning, but the concerned Upper West Sider sent us many photos and videos which she says are all from the last few months. She tells us she sent the same files to the police, but when they arrived at the scene, “they wouldn’t do anything.”
She added, “They are afraid to confront the drug dealers. Why are we paying taxes for salaries for police when they won’t do their job?”
Her reports even detailed what time the dealers arrived each day and which pockets they kept their cash and drugs in. She was also incensed that the owner of Kam Lai didn’t do anything when alerted about it. We spoke to the restaurant owner on the phone, and she said she can’t control the streets and who comes into her store.
The woman says the only reason she shared the information on Nextdoor was “to let people know for their own safety.”
Despite the number of times the woman tells us she contacted the police – going so far as finding individual officer’s email addresses and following up with them – we only got one report when we reached out to the 24th Precinct: that they received a call on June 20 but that by the time officers arrived, the individuals were gone. The official response we received from the Office of the Deputy Commissioner, Public Information (DCPI) was that “The Commanding Officer is aware of community complaints at the location and is looking into them.”
The attention the post provoked appears to have driven the dealers into hiding or relocating – and perhaps that’s because it got the police to visit the site once more. Our informant strongly believes that community action is crucial to stopping illegal activity. “When a community bands together to avoid unsafe areas and to report illegal activity in those areas, eventually something will happen. This is not a struggle that one person can win.”
It’s unclear if and where the individuals are currently dealing.