Local Drug Busts Shed Light on Drug Activity Near Campus

by AMY CARDOZA, Staff Writer

Several drug busts over the past year in the college’s surrounding community have brought attention to the dealing operations–and the drug culture–in and around MC.

According to an article in the Riverdale Press, on Aug. 13, the NYPD Narcotics Borough Bronx team busted two cocaine dealers just blocks away from Manhattan College. One occurred on Kingsbridge Avenue and the other on Irwin Avenue between West 234th Street and West 236th Street.

Both busts were accomplished by the work of undercover officers working for the 50th precinct. On Kingsbridge Avenue, the suspect was found with not only 140 grams of cocaine, but also 20 grams of MDMA and over one thousand dollars in cash. The second bust wasn’t as large, reaping five tins of cocaine and nine bags of marijuana. Still, anything over 500 milligrams of cocaine wields a felony charge and the first suspect was found with around 280 times the felony amount.

According to a press release from the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, the authorities became aware of the cocaine sales to Manhattan College students after a tip was reported by a member of the Manhattan College community in late February. During this time, the NYPD began steadily purchasing and seizing over six thousand dollars worth of drugs, including cocaine and marijuana, while monitoring the dealer for half a year. Once they narrowed down the supplier, they busted both. The dealer, Victor Vigniero, admitted to dealing drugs to Manhattan College students from his apartment on Irwin Avenue while being supplied by his cousin, Osvaldo Espaillat, who lived on Kingsbridge Avenue. Vigniero admitted the student body was a significant portion of his market and that his supplier focused on other customers.

In addition to the drugs they collected from the street bust, the officers also raided the houses of both the offenders. Cocaine and oxycodone were found in the dealer’s Irwin Avenue residence. His supplier was found with cocaine, two scales and almost three thousand dollars in cash.

These two busts are only a recent development in an ongoing problem concerning Riverdale and the sale of hard narcotics. Earlier this summer, on May 17, the largest DEA heroin bust in New York history occurred near Horace Mann School. According to the New York Times, over 154 pounds of heroin were confiscated, making it not only the largest bust in the state but also the fourth largest in the country.  In a CNBC interview, Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget Brennan made a statement that it was a “load so large, it carried the potential of supplying a dose of heroin to every man, woman and child in New York City.” This successful bust came as a result of a yearlong investigation.

According to the Riverdale Press, more heroin was discovered in an apartment on West 238th Street two weeks after the bust.

There was no connection between the two incidents, but they both represent a startling trend. Hard narcotics are being packaged and sold closer and closer to school grounds, both Manhattan College’s campus and the local high schools.

With all the recent attention towards drug-related activity so close to campus, it could be assumed there would be a corresponding increase in on-campus drug activity. However, drug violations in the past two years has reportedly decreased.

Director of Public Safety Juan Cerezo reports that there has been “a 24 percent decrease in drug abuse violations on campus from 2013 to 2014.”

He also explained that in all of these instances, almost all of the drugs recovered were marijuana except for one instance where molly (a form of ecstasy) was found. Cerezo also stated that this year as a community, “we’re on target to see a similar decrease in drug abuse violations.”

However, some students seem to feel differently.

“Drugs are definitely present on campus, and cocaine is no exception. It’s something that doesn’t really surprise me that he [Vigniero] was selling majorly to Manhattan kids. College kids are a great market for drugs in general, not just Manhattan, so that makes sense,” sophomore Chris Pagano said.

Other students are concerned that the closer drugs move to campus, the more related issues they will bring with them that will begin to transform life on campus.

“Drugs and violence go hand in hand,” sophomore Rebecca Maher said.

“When one increases, the other follows. That is what worries me the most about these stories. Not really what they’ve done, but what others like them have the potential to do.”