Dozens of suspected gang members nabbed in bust

May 13, 2010 7:19:23 PM PDT
Hundreds of agents armed with federal indictments swarmed the small but violent Orange County city of Newburgh on Thursday.

On the map it's Lander Street, but on the streets it's called "Blood Alley" - a reference to the gang that controls the area.

Lander Street and a ten block area of Newburgh was swarming with over 500 local and state cops and federal agents.

In all, 78 arrest warrants were issued for members of the Bloods and Latin Kings gangs.

"They are organized. They are violent. They are ruthless. And they are, or were, the principle drug dealers operating in Newburgh today," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

"Men who were involved in homicides and beatings, drug dealing and shootings. Now those men are facing very long prison sentences," Newburgh Police Chief Eric Paolilli said.

The early morning raids resulted in 19 arrests. Forty-four suspects were already in custody. Fifteen suspects are still on the loose.

Drugs and violence have plagued Newburgh for years. The small city of 26-thousand has the most violent crime per capita in New York State.

"I could not be happier. It's really what we need to kind of break the backs of what we are dealing with, with gangs and drug activity in Newburgh," Mayor Nicholas Valentine said.

Melanie Zachary has had two sons killed in drive-by shootings. Fifteen-year old Jeffery Zachary's murder two years ago was an impetus for the federal investigation that resulted in the crackdown.

"Something needed to be done and it has been done today. I think they did a very good job," she said.

Community leaders say there simply aren't enough activities for young people to resist the pull of gang membership.

"This is a place where your dreams die. They definitely need progressive people on our city council to change this," activist Timothy Hayes-El said.

The suspects are facing various federal drug charges. If convicted, they could spend 40 years to life in prison.