It's been a little more than a year since Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance held a news conference to announce a multi-gang takedown in East Harlem. All but a couple of 63 people busted have been sentenced to multiple years behind bars and now the DA touts a drop in crime. Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
What families want to see is kids playing safely.
"If you keep to yourself, you'll do okay. Go out here looking for trouble, it will find you,” said Indira Branford.
Branford has lived in East Harlem's Johnson houses for 23 years. Like others, she's noticed it's safer recently.
"It's less cliques of people hanging around outside with its safer coming home definitely,” said Branford.
Across the street at Taft Houses, inside the People's Barber Shop.
"It was crazy when we first got here,” said barber Chris Johnson.
Workers watch what goes on outside.
"Everything is good now,” said Johnson.
A couple blocks down at Lehman Houses it's much the same story and the Manhattan District Attorney says that's because the people in the photos above are off the street and in prison.
He says they are members of three gangs, more than 60 in total, who will spend between two and 25 years locked up for crimes ranging from attempted murder to conspiracy.
"I was concerned about violence between gang members that we saw spiking in various neighbor s around gang activity and I’m also concerned about gun activity,” said District Attorney Cy Vance.
Vance says the gang roundup in April 2013 netted more than a dozen guns, and built cases by using data to point police at specific offenders.
According to Vance, there has been a 76 percent reduction in overall shootings in East Harlem since the bust.
“What we're doing I believe is working,” said Vance.
Vance calls it intelligence driven prosecution. It's similar to COMSTAT started under Police Commissioner Bill Bratton in the 90's.
“It's been around of over a decade but in terms of other agencies like prosecutor’s office it's relatively new it really is,” said criminal justice expert Maki Haberfeld.
Haberfeld says Vance's method is a good way of working with limited resources, but cautions sometimes criminals notice the change and move.
“Some people just engage in the life of crime no matter what,” said Haberfeld.