Exclusive: NYPD solves triple shooting as part of battle against turf war violence

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Eyewitness News received an exclusive behind the scenes look as the NYPD worked to solve a triple shooting in East Harlem.

Police cracked the case as part of the city's strategy for battling turf war violence.

The shooting happened March 18th outside the Thomas Jefferson Houses at 112th Street and Third Avenue.

"I heard it upstairs but I didn't know what happened, the cop was like, you can't come this way," said East Harlem resident Simonet Bennett. "I could get hit by a bullet."

That fear that has been part of her world for more than two decades.

"When I was younger there were shootings at night and in the day where I literally had to drop down on my stomach in my house just so I wouldn't get shot because I live on the lower floor," she said.

Simonet lives at the Thomas Jefferson Houses, where turf wars with nearby NYCHA housing complexes have long been part of the fabric of this community.

One example is the March 18 shooting, where exclusive surveillance video showed a 16-year-old opening fire, shooting three young men.

But within 24 hours there was an arrest, and the key component was Neighborhood Coordination Officers, or NCOs.

"You're like that small-time sheriff," said NYPD Captain Amir Yakatally, the commanding officer of PSA5. This is part of his patrol area.

"Sometimes the community is less able to come forward and speak to police but they are able to reach out to NCO's and give them information that was key to closing out the investigation," said Yakatally.

That expertise is changing the way the department operates, said NYPD Deputy Chief Martine Materasso.

NCOs initially spotted the suspect in that video and retraced his steps back to the Wagner Houses, a rival complex.

"It's so much easier with sharing information," said Materasso. "We're able to get that word out that we need information, whether it's a crime, a missing child, these officers right away, 'Oh I know who that is, I'll go over to that block.'"

Simonet says it is a welcome change in her backyard.

"We don't want violence and stuff happening here, we want to be safe, just go to school, have a good life and a good education," she said.

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