Brooklyn Blog Helps Lead to Drug Raid
By MICHAEL WILSON
Published: June 26, 2008
Most neighborhoods in Brooklyn have at least one blog — and in some places, there seems to be one in every house, every bedroom — but not many read like BayRidgeTalk, where the subjects over the last year or two veered away from apartment sales and plumbing tips and block parties and sounded more like rat-a-tat police reports.
“Fighting and drug deals going down in the driveway of this house,” one person wrote in 2006 about a home steeped in reports of suspicious activity on 93rd Street in Bay Ridge.
Another person replied: “I’ve heard loud fighting for almost a year now but did not realize until recently that it’s a crack house.”
A third, who sounded more like a cynical cop than what he really is, a pet store owner, weighed in: “There have been two deaths in a one-block radius up here. One was definitely an overdose and the other is suspect, but the toxicology is still pending (to my knowledge). If the tox comes back positive, then that could indicate that some bad stuff has hit the streets.”
Months later, the bloggers are celebrating, days after the police raided the two neighboring homes in question, 346 and 348 93rd Street, between Third and Fourth Avenues, and arrested five people, including three brothers who lived there.
As descriptions of crack houses go, the ones the bloggers gave of the homes on 93rd Street were hardly novel, with stories of addicts slumped on the steps outside and cars coming and going at all hours. Men inside chased strangers away, neighbors said, waving sticks and making threats while the rest of the street peered out behind drawn blinds.
But peering turned to blogging, and blogging turned to action, as neighbors started filing complaints with the 68th Precinct station house and attending Community Board 10 meetings and generally making noise until a narcotics investigation began, leading to the arrests.
“At the end of the day, it was about putting aside anonymity, putting aside the HTML and physically showing up,” said Jason Miller, 37, the pet shop owner, better known to many as PetShopBoy, his login name on BayRidgeTalk.com.
The Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, announced the arrests on Wednesday, praising old-fashioned police work — “a fairly uncomplicated, unsophisticated operation.”
The suspects were identified as three brothers, Joseph Terrone, 54, Michael Terrone, 47, and Ross Terrone, 45, as well as Alan Reilly, 61, and Erica Raffone, 31. All remained jailed on Wednesday. The brothers and Ms. Raffone face conspiracy, drugs and weapons charges, while Mr. Reilly was charged with selling a controlled substance. A sixth suspect remains at large.
A lawyer for Ross Terrone, Joshua Horowitz, said the conspiracy charge involves a minor’s participation in drug dealing. “The idea of the conspiracy in the first degree, which is a killer of a charge, is a twisting of the law," he said.
Ross Terrone denied all the charges, his lawyer said.
Mr. Hynes said most of the drug activity occurred inside the house, making it hard for officers to penetrate. “I don’t think anyone recognized it was as expansive as it was,” he said.
But the bloggers seemed to know, sometimes chronicling daily activities in detail, misspellings and all: “Several more crack heads came out of 346 93rd street,” one woman wrote last year, “and one was trying to steal a ladder while i guess another which i could not tell was male or female, who may have lived their claimed ownership to the ladder and they begain to fight.”
Mr. Hynes declined to discuss the details of how the evidence was gathered against the suspects. “They make dumb mistakes and we capitalize,” he said. He said he lives in the area, so close that he was seen once on a surveillance video walking down the street, smoking a cigar, but that he had not noticed suspicious activity at the house.
The two two-story buildings have been in the Terrone family for many years, neighbors said. A sign out front reads, “In Loving Memory of Our Parents, Properties 346-348 are named Rose’s Garden.”
Neighbors said on Wednesday that they would not give their names because they were afraid of the people who lived there. “When they were 3 or 4 years old, they’d kick in my basement windows,” one woman said. “They were kind of wild. They’d throw mud on the clothes on the line.”
“There were times when someone would be on the property and he’d come at him with a stick,” said another woman, who rents an apartment in one of the buildings, speaking of one of the Terrone brothers. “Everybody on this block is happy they’re gone. I’d wake up in the morning, I’d hear the drug addicts arguing about how their sneakers are gone, all this nonsense. They’d take each other’s clothes, their money.”
News of the arrests on Friday, reported in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, was carried on BayRidgeTalk practically in real time. One person created the heading “Cops invade drug house,” and wrote: “Undercover drug detectives have closed off 93rd street between 3rd and 4ave. drug dogs on scene, looks like house is being searched.”
He or she added: “Could this be what we think it is????!!!!!!”
Another replied, “Yep it’s really going down.”
Mr. Miller, the pet shop owner, said a core group of seven people who met through the blog brought the case to the attention of the community board and met with the authorities. “A group of people who did not know each other came together and traded information,” he said.
Katherine Khatari, 47, who owns a coffee shop in Bay Ridge, said she learned of the complaints about the houses on the blog. “You check and see what’s going on in the neighborhood,” she said “People don’t like to fight alone. There’s strength in numbers, you know? There’s more of us than them.”
Ann Farmer contributed reporting.