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Sting operation takes heroin, cocaine off Queens streets

Police arrested dozens of suspected drug dealers last Thursday who they contended ran their operation out of the Woodside Houses and sold hundreds of illegal paraphernalia a few blocks from young children.

Some 41 people were rounded up and charged with numerous counts involving selling marijuana, heroin, cocaine and illegal firearms at and near the public housing complex at 50-51 Broadway, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told a news conference at police headquarters in Manhattan Friday.

The arrests were part of a six-month undercover sting operation initiated by the police and Queens district attorney after the 108th Precinct saw an increase in crime and complaints from people in the project.

"I think it has an effect," Kelly said of the busts. "Other crimes are tied to the drug dealing."

Queens DA Richard Brown, who joined Kelly at the news conference, said search warrants of the alleged drug dealer's apartments at the project led police to confiscate dozens of bags of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, a Kevlar vest, pistols and ammunition, an expandable baton and handcuffs. Brown said the discovery of the contraband operations was disturbing because they not only posed harm to the buildings's innocent residents, but also children at a nearby school.

"These arrests should bring welcome relief by putting a significant dent in the drug trafficking and drug-related violence in and around the housing complex," Brown said.

Kelly said the undercover operation began in November after police noticed that reported crime had dropped at western Queens projects like Queensbridge but risen at Woodside Houses, loacted at 50-51 Broadway. At least seven groups of individuals, the largest known as "the diamond crew" that operated at the basketball court, allegedly sold the drugs to undercover officers on 150 separate occasions, according to the commissioner.

The accused drug dealers, some of whom Kelly said were members of the Crips gang, collectively sold a quarter of a million dollars worth of contraband including a 9mm gun, Kelly said.

The individuals, who mostly live in Woodside and range in age from 17 to 51, were indicted last Thursday and Friday on several charges, including criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal sale of a firearm and criminal sale of a controlled substance on or near school grounds. If convicted, many face up to 15 years in prison, according to Brown.

Kelly said his officers' hard work was greatly appreciated by the community and he would continue to work hard to remove drugs from Woodside's streets.

"We had members come out of their apartments and applaud the officers for the arrests," he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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