NYPD plans crackdown on illegal, unlicensed smoke shops after deadly shooting

Josh Einiger Image
Thursday, April 13, 2023
Violent crimes at smoke shops across NYC triggers crackdown
After a man was murdered in a Harlem smoke shop, the NYPD says they plan to crack down on unlicensed and illegal businesses. Josh Einiger has more.

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Police say they are doubling down on enforcement at smoke shops across New York City, some of which have become a magnet for violent crime.

A smoke shop at Lenox and 125th marked the spot of a cold-blooded killing on Easter Sunday.

The man arrested in a deadly Harlem smoke shop shooting over the weekend has been charged with another weekend murder, police say.

Police say that the two men involved were customers and that it was a career criminal that shot a rival in the head.

People in the neighborhood say that the shop itself is the problem and and that all the stores that are selling drugs illegally need to be shut down.

In 2021, the state legalized the sale of marijuana, but only with a license.

RELATED: Eyewitness News is tracking crime and safety across New York City and in your neighborhood

Since then, New York City has seen a rise in crime surrounding cash-only, illegal and unlicensed stores. Those crimes rose 140% in 2022 and another 50% so far this year.

"Last year alone we had over a thousand 311 calls pertaining to smoke shops people outside loud music cars," said John Chell Chief of the NYPD Patrol Bureau. "Brings a lot of people together. And sometimes when you bring people together things do happen."

Police say they are doubling down on illegal unlicensed shops across the city.

Of the 1,600 stores, 70 of them are facing closure. The smoke shop at Lenox and 125th is not on the list, at least not yet.

After the murder at the smoke shop, the owners are trying to clean up their act, forcing customers to do business through a window instead of walking in, to keep the criminal element at bay. But when it comes to their existence on this strip, it could be too little too late.

"I'm going to work with community leaders the landlord and make sure problematic locations like this get closed down," said Captain Tarik Sheppard of NYPD 28 Precinct 1001.

Captain Sheppard was born and raised a few blocks from the shop where the shooting took place and feels a special responsibility to clean up the neighborhood.


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