Nearly 700 New York police officers and federal agents have carried out the biggest drug gang operation in the city’s history.
Some 88 people were arrested in a series of pre-dawn raids in the Bronx targeting two rival drug gangs from top to bottom.
US Attorney Preet Bharara told a news conference that more suspects were being sought in what he described as the biggest ever gang takedown in New York City.
He said: “We bring these charges so that all New Yorkers, including those in public housing, can live their lives as they deserve: free of drugs, free of guns and free of gang violence.”
Wednesday’s arrests stemmed from charges brought against 120 gang members and came after a 16-month investigation which began when police moved to address a surge in violence in the Bronx – particularly around the Eastchester Gardens housing projects.
Dozens of shootings, stabbings, beatings and robberies, and the killings of a 15-year-old who was stabbed to death and a 92-year-old hit by a stray bullet, have been tied to the two gangs – 2Fly Ygz and the Big Money Bosses – Mr Bharara said.
He said 2Fly gang members stored guns and sold drugs at a playground in the centre of the housing project, with the rival gang operating a few blocks away.
Both gangs used social media to promote, protect and grow their organisations, including boasting about their exploits on YouTube, Mr Bharara said.
Officials are now investigating whether the city’s 400,000 public housing residents were being protected in safe conditions as required by federal law.
The Housing Authority said: “Many conditions influence the presence of a gang and other illegal activity, and we continue to work closely with the NYPD to address these challenges.”
The raids follow charges being filed against 36 members of two rival drug trafficking gangs operating out of three Housing Authority complexes in East Harlem.
During the raid on Wednesday, a man who was not part of the investigation but was wanted for a string of knife-point robberies jumped from a window and later died, police said.