By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Residents and community leaders in Bay Ridge expressed relief in the wake of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson’s announcement on Monday about a major drug bust that shut down a sophisticated narcotics network in their neighborhood.
“I’m so happy. Now maybe our neighborhood will finally be free of rampant drugs,” one resident told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday, the day after the arrests were announced.
“We’ve been complaining to police and to our elected officials about drug dealing on our streets for years. You walk out your door, particularly if you live near Fifth Avenue, and see people dealing drugs right in front of you. I can’t tell you how many community meetings I’ve gone to where people are talking about the drug problem. I was beginning to worry that nothing was being done about it,” said the resident, a senior citizen who has lived in Bay Ridge for more than 30 years. She requested that her name not be printed.
On Monday, Thompson, and Police Commissioner William Bratton and Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) announced that indictments had been handed up against six defendants who were charged with operating narcotics, steroids and marijuana phone delivery services in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Sunset Park and Bensonhurst.
The drug problem in Bay Ridge and surrounding neighborhoods has been the focus of numerous community meetings held by elected officials over the past two years. On Feb. 27, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn) hosted a town hall at PS 170, 7109 Sixth Ave. to discuss a troubling trend – heroin and prescription drug overdoes in the community.
In his announcement, Thompson noted that the investigation which led to the arrests of six suspects on drug and conspiracy charges began after complaints by neighborhood residents, community leaders and local politicians, and after several overdose deaths in those neighborhoods.
“People were getting fed up,” Golden told the Eagle. “Our local residents, particularly those living between 69th and 76th streets, from Third Avenue to Seventh Avenue, have been reporting drug activity to the police on a regular basis.”
Golden said that at the Feb. 27 town hall, “I saw the frustration, and fear, that drugs have caused our neighborhood families; residents forced to contend with drug sales in stores where they are simply looking to purchase milk.”
Golden has been appointed to the New York State Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction.
“We will continue to work day and night with the NYPD to fight drug dealing that occurs anywhere in Brooklyn. The cost in lives is too high not to make this a priority,” Thompson said.
“Cells phones are essential to operating any business, but these drug dealers unlawfully used the device as a means to distribute narcotics on the streets of Brooklyn and put money in their pockets,” Bratton said.
Gentile, a former prosecutor, commended Thompson and the police for making the arrests and said the drug busts are important because they send a strong message to criminals not to set up shop in southern Brooklyn.
But Gentile said vigilant local residents also deserve a lot of the credit. “Thanks to tips from concerned residents from Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst, along with a strong joint law enforcement effort, today we are sending a clear message that drugs and drug activity of any kind in our neighborhoods and on our residential streets will not be tolerated,” he said on Monday.
According to documents submitted in court, the investigation revealed that suspects Vincent Alfonso, Vincent Felix and Adam Veit allegedly conspired to operate a sophisticated drug delivery service business.
Two other suspects, Francesco Lozada and Victor Moreno, allegedly operated their own cocaine and crack cocaine phone distribution service, with Lozado taking customer orders, and Moreno handling the deliveries, according to Thompson.
Another defendant, Robert Kollbeck, allegedly conspired with others to operate a ketamine (“Special K”—a horse tranquilizer) and anabolic steroids phone delivery service.
The district attorney’s office has started civil proceedings to seize real property and motor vehicles used as instrumentalities of these crimes, as well as bank accounts associated with the criminal activity.
“Thanks to tips from residents, effective communication between elected and community officials and the great work of our law enforcement agencies, less drug activity will occur on our streets,” Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island) said.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, called the drug bust, “a great thing for the community” and said the board is taking a proactive approach to the drug problem. “We have established three ad-hoc committees to look further into the drug issue,” she said, adding that the committees will look at law enforcement, the health consequences of drug use, and educational outreach for prevention.
The board’s Drug Task Force Ad-Hoc Committee on Education will meet on Friday, March 21,at the board’s office at 8119 Fifth Ave. at 4 p.m.