Some New York residents are complaining their once chic and upscale neighborhood has been overwhelmed by an influx of drugs and other obscenities that law enforcement has been unable to control, according to a report.
In Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, once known for its voguish condominiums and ritzy restaurants, drug users have begun openly using syringes in the streets, which are also permeated with violence, nudity, smoking and even sex dens, Fox 5 of New York reports.
"What's worse is it's not just at night - it's during the day," said Vivek Batra, a co-op owner in the neighborhood told Fox 5. "You can see people over here shooting up, smoking. I find pipes. I find needles in the street and kids are playing right here."
A Fox 5 News crew also recorded a person injecting a syringe into their arm in a basement laundry room and another individual openly smoking what police said was probably meth.
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These are not isolated incidents, residents told the station, as parents said the neighborhood is now an area "not safe for kids."
"We have people going around the block for the past three years taking drugs, having sex in the basements, breaking in, different type of intrusions," Chloe, a resident and mother, told Fox 5. "Basically, we feel like the area is not safe for our kids."
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As for the police, they can't keep up with the rampant crime despite their best efforts, residents said.
"We've been using the 311 app, which is great, we call the police - the police is very responsive. We had two break-ins, they were able to arrest the people within hours," Chloe told Fox New York. "The issue that we're seeing is that in a lot of cases, they're not able to detain the person. So sometimes they're not able to do the arrest that we need them to do."
Even when police do catch the suspected criminal and an arrest is made, the New York Police Department cannot keep the individual behind bars, according to NYPD Captain Robert Gault.
Gault told Fox 5 that arrests and narcotics arrests were up for the year, but the criminals are brought in and then released back onto the streets, due to changes in bail laws.
"Our patrol arrests are up 37% right now year to date, and then when you look at the narcotics arrests, also we're at a 37% increase year to date," Gault said. "So we're arresting the individuals, we're bringing them in, but what we're seeing, unfortunately, is they're right back out there and the addiction doesn't go away."
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The criminal justice revolving door process of being arrested then released can be completed within minutes, according to the report.
"The police are trying to do their bit and they said their hands are tied, basically," Batra said. "All they can do is arrest them, write out a report, and they're out in minutes and they're back out here all over again."
And the villainy no longer has a legal limit, the police chief said, sharing an example of a female suspect his department arrested with 151 previous arrests.
"You mention the elementary school on 21st Street - my people were out there today, they arrested a recidivist with a lengthy criminal history, brought her in - this is an individual, she was in possession, she was observed smoking crystal meth under the scaffolding next to a school," Gault said. "She was brought in, and as per the law, she qualified for a desk-appearance ticket and she was right out of the station house a couple hours later."
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The situation has been described as "Catch, release, repeat," by NYC Mayor Eric Adams, who has expressed his own frustration with the problem.
And, when it's not blatant crime happening in the streets, Fox 5 reported another concern for residents is physical threats and intimidation.
Laurie, a bartender and resident of the area for 44 years, told the outlet she would be unable to get into her own home after working all night because of drug users sitting on her doorstep.
"I would come home between 4 and 5 in the morning and they would be on my front stoop and I would be horrified, 'How am I going to get upstairs?'" she said. "They were doing drugs, they were tweaking, they were shooting up in their toes and smoking crack."
The co-op owner shared a similar account, saying he was threatened just last week by a person with a knife.
"They get aggressive and say, 'We'll cut you, we've got a knife,' I had someone pull a knife on me last week," Batra said. "I was gardening here and tried to chase someone away who was urinating on a car and this person pulled a knife on me. I had to call the police and back away."
Residents, who once cherished the area, have been forced to endure the crime wave or have been forced to move away.
"It's dangerous and I want out," Laurie said.