Police officer honored for role in drug bust

An NYPD narcotics officer received a special honor in recognition of his crucial role in a drug bust at the Pelham Parkway Houses.

Captain Kevin Nicholson of the NYPD 49th Precinct said that the arrests in which Detective Dennis O’Keefe, the honoree, played such a big role had been a long time coming. It all started in August of 2009, when the 49th Precinct opened a case to address the culprits involved in a number of shootings. The shootings turned out to be related to the drug trafficking going on at the houses, so Nicholson said, “We put three undercover officers into the Pelham Houses, posing as drug users.”

But this wasn’t the stuff of movies, where everything happens quickly, no sweat. In real life, Detective O’Keefe, who was the case leader, and the other three officers had to take their time, be patient and repeatedly make purchases and document them in order to build a strong case. “They made approximately 120 purchases of narcotics—crack, PCP, heroin, and other drugs,” said Nicholson.

Finally, on March 10, arrests were made of 30 people in what Councilman James Vacca called “a major crackdown on drug dealers.” On April 27 at the 49th Precinct Community Council meeting, Vacca showed up with a large plaque and made a show of honoring O’Keefe.

“We have many drug-related issues in Pelham houses,” said Vacca, “and this arrest really put a dent in a long, nagging problem here. But more has to be done. Pelham Houses is still on the radar screen of Bronx narcotics.”

Both Vacca and Nicholson say that the arrests were a good coup, but that incidents like this will only continue, officials and police fear, if nothing else is done to make it stop for good.

“The NYC Housing Authority should be doing more to address drug-related problems in these houses,” said Vacca. “They should step up to the plate. It’s not fair to ask decent, law-abiding people to deal with these problems. They affect the quality of life for good people.”

Detective O’Keefe was so focused on this case, according to Captain Nicholson, that, “Seriously, there was not a single day he was not out there. His tenacity is what made the case a success.”

If officers like O’Keefe continue to crack down on drug dealers, eventually the Pelham Houses could hopefully become a safe, problem-free community building in the neighborhood.

Reach Daniel Roberts at (718) 742-3383 or droberts@cnglocal.com

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