A group of squatters who allegedly deal drugs and terrorized a Bronx working-class neighborhood for several months have now vacated the areas, though residents of the Bedford Park community may still be facing some issues.
After the New York Post reported that the squatters were tainting the once-serene neighborhood doing drug deals, enabling prostitution, playing loud music and harassing residents who walked past them, the NYPD raided the home.
“Cops allegedly found synthetic cannabinoid, crack residue and a round of ammunition at 3059 Valentine Ave., police told The Post,” the paper reported.
Police records show that local hood, Frank “The Tank” Castillo, was arrested the day cops raided the abandoned home, the Post added, citing additional court records showing that he had been squatting at the residence since October and that he had been arrested for drugs in April.
“Besides the (Post) article, we feel this was accomplished because residents in the neighborhood made calls to 311 & 911,” a nearby building manager told tenants in an email obtained by The Post, the country’s oldest newspaper.
The squatters managed to open an account with a local utility so they could prove their residency. They managed to remain in the property for 10 months in large part because of an unprecedented backlog of cases in New York City Housing Courts caused by people filing for protection during the COVID-19 pandemic because they couldn’t make their rent payments.
An attorney working on behalf of the owner of the Valentine Ave. property told the paper they are working with the district attorney in the Bronx to keep squatters from returning to the home forever.
“We are hopeful that this new case will get us before a housing judge quicker than the squatting case we commenced previously, since the illegal sale of narcotics and nuisance behavior proceedings are actually getting court dates at this point in the pandemic,” attorney Melissa Levin, of Horing, Welikson, Rosen & Digrugilliers, told The Post.
A month ago, The Post reported that “an alleged drug dealer and his cronies have hijacked a Bronx home” and began setting up drug deals, prostitution, and other illegal activity, citing residents of the neighborhood.
“I don’t go to that corner. I’m scared,” one frightened resident told the paper, without giving their name. “They do everything over there. They sell drugs, they do prostitution.”
“They’ve created a lot of havoc on our block since they got here,” the resident continued. “I suspect they’re dealing drugs. I know they throw parties. They harass people. I’ve been harassed. I’ve been threatened.”
Another resident told The Post that the squatters frequently harassed anyone who walked by the run-down property.
“They bother people walking by,” the resident said. “I tell people don’t show them any fear. If you don’t show fear they won’t bother you. But I have family down at the precinct; I give them a call and the police show right up.”
Castillo, 29, was the alleged leader of the squatter gang. He has been arrested a number of times since 2010 on various charges including gang assault, robbery, and weapon possession, The Post added.
Problems with squatters are just the latest quality of life issues in New York City, where crime has shot skyward over the past year especially, as liberal DAs increasingly shunned prosecutions and cash bonds for several offenses.
Police have lashed out repeatedly at the lack of enforcement of the city’s laws, as well as left-wing Mayor Bill DeBlasio for signing off on defunding the NYPD as crime spiked.
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