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Washington Heights: Drug Capital? Crooked Cops? With AM-Angry Neighborhood, Bjt

July 7, 1992 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ It’s the city’s most murderous neighborhood. It’s arguably the most drug- ridden. It has an increasingly frightened local population. It allegedly has a den of corrupt cops.

The Washington Heights section of Manhattan is home to most of what’s bad about New York city living.

It wasn’t always so in the stretch of northern Manhattan between the Hudson and Harlem rivers, a densely populated region that was a magnet for immigrants throughout this century. The area took its name from George Washington, who was headquartered there during the Revolutionary War.


Years ago, the neighborhood was home to Irish and Jewish newcomers. Then a heavy influx of German refugees during the 1930s earned it the cynical title ″The Fourth Reich.″

Nationalities changed, but the steady pace of immigration continued. Puerto Ricans and Cubans moved in, followed in recent years by a large contingent from the Dominican Republic.

The area was clean and relatively safe, with one section earning the pleasant nickname of ″Sugar Hill.″

That all changed with the arrival of the urban plague of the 1980s - crack cocaine.

Local gangs fought to control the drug trade. Crack is cheap and plentiful on neighborhood corners, leading to school dropouts and addiction.

Are cops taking payoffs? ″I don’t believe a (drug) ring can be operating without some people in the precinct knowing,″ said Thomas Reppetto, head of the watchdog Citizens Crime Commission.

The precinct is the 34th, unquestionably one of the busiest precincts in the entire city. Newsday has reported it is one of 10 involved in a growing federal investigation of police corruption.

Allegations have surfaced that one office kidnapped a drug dealer and turned him over to a rival gang for execution.

In 1991, there were 119 murders in the 34th - the most anywhere in the city. The precinct also made the most drug arrests; its proximity to the George Washington Bridge across the Hudson makes it popular for suburban drug users seeking drive-through drug dealers.

Over the last three years, assaults increased 35 percent and robberies 45 percent. As crime increased, the relationship between the officers of the 34th Precinct and the residents deteriorated.

The Fourth of July weekend shooting of Jose Garcia by a police officer set off rioting for three days. Monday night’s arson, along with bottle and rock throwing, was the worst night yet.

″This is not an isolated incident,″ said City Councilman Guillermo Linares, whose district includes the area. ″The people are outraged. They want action right away with nothing covered up.″

That’s not the official line on police-resident relations.

″Contrary to there being a problem, we have really made progress in increasing the trust between the community and the precinct,″ said Deputy Police Commissioner Suzanne Trazoff.