The Case of the Disappearing Pins

They are just pins on a map of Upper Manhattan.

But the green pins denote shootings, with injuries, while the red ones mark the spots where someone was shot to death.

There were 11 green pins between January 2008 and last February in the area bordered by West 135th and West 139th Streets and by Malcolm X Boulevard and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. There were three red pins in the same time period, within the same four-block grid.

But there have been no pins affixed to the same map since February 2011. That is when prosecutors in the office of Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, dismantled what they said was a drug gang based around West 137th Street during a swirl of violence that afflicted the Central Harlem neighborhood in recent years. (There have been two murders, but no fatal shootings, in the four-block area since last February, though both were related to domestic violence – a stabbing and a strangulation – according to officials.)

It was no secret that so much gunfire and violence were leading to death and injury in the neighborhood, which is anchored by the well-known Abyssinian Baptist Church. But the Crime Strategies Unit of Mr. Vance’s office, in conjunction with others in law enforcement, went a step further in mapping the areas, block by block, and affixing pins to mark violent spots.

“With young lookouts posted along the block reporting back to older, well-armed members, this gang became so deeply entrenched on this stretch of West 137th Street that, despite years of dedicated efforts by law enforcement to infiltrate and eradicate this violent criminal street gang, the 137th Street Crew managed to remain intact and in business,” Mr. Vance said in announcing indictments against 14 accused gang members, most of whom were arrested on Feb. 15, 2011.

Pointing to a map that day, Mr. Vance described how webs of gang and narcotics-related activity encroached on a broad swath of the neighborhood, enveloping areas where the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy, the Harlem YMCA and the Thurgood Marshall Academy public charter school were all located.

“This gang isn’t just a threat to our safety in the streets – this gang specifically threatened the safety of children,” Mr. Vance said. “These defendants targeted children and young teenagers to hold and transport the firearms of individual gang members and guns held collectively by the gang. Teens under the age of 16 were also recruited into gang activity, including shootings, gang assaults and robberies, and were used to transport and sell crack cocaine. And the defendants specifically targeted girls to transport loaded firearms, to reduce the likelihood of the guns being detected by law enforcement.”

Most of the defendants were arraigned on Feb. 16, 2011. Five of them – whom prosecutors said were in the upper echelon of the gang organization – were convicted in October of running a drug-trafficking conspiracy. (Another of the defendants, Afrika Owes, lent the case notoriety; she pleaded guilty, earlier in 2011, to the top count in the indictment against her, an official said.)

Now, the Crime Strategies Unit has a different map – the one that shows no pins in the area prosecutors first honed in on years ago.

The assistant district attorney from the unit who was assigned to Central Harlem, Tanya Apparicio, though not directly involved in the courtroom prosecution of the case, did work in the lead up to the indictments. The case was handled by the prosecutors Christopher Prevost and Christopher Ryan, the head of the office’s Violent Criminal Enterprises Unit. After the indictments, Ms. Apparicio continued to work with people in the community as part of outreach efforts by the district attorney’s office.

Is John Bilich Moving On?

Word is circulating among law enforcement officials that John Bilich, who has worked as the head of the Investigations Bureau for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, might be heading back to the New York Police Department. Though details of the possible move are unclear, one official characterized it as a promotion. “He’s been an invaluable asset to the D.A.’s office,” the official said. It was not clear what position Mr. Bilich might take in the Police Department. Mr. Bilich, who is retired from the city police force, was formerly the deputy commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services.

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