Welcome to Newburgh, 'Murder Capital of New York'?
One morning earlier this month, just before sunrise, a silent convoy of SUVs streamed into the tiny, troubled city of Newburgh, New York. Over 200 law-­enforcement officers descended on the blighted heart of town, and a company of military-style commandos prepared for a synchronized raid. Armed with M4 assault rifles and dressed in helmets, goggles, and green fatigues, SWAT teams burst into a series of dilapidated houses, shouting, “FBI! Get down!
By late morning, twelve alleged members of the Bloods street gang were in ­federal custody. Along with eight others who were already behind bars, the young men were charged with murder, attempted murder, robbery, ­assault, possession of firearms, and conspiracy to distribute drugs. It was the third major sweep by federal authorities in ­Newburgh over the past sixteen months. At a press conference, Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said that the raid was designed to ­“restore the rule of law” in the impoverished city, where violent street gangs “have held the good citizens of Newburgh ­hostage for too long.”
Beautifully situated on a picturesque bend in the Hudson about a 90 minutes’ drive north of New York City, Newburgh does not look, from a distance, like a community mired in High Noon levels of lawlessness. But in actuality, it has less in common with bohemian Beacon, just across the river (“Williamsburg on the Hudson,” as the Times recently anointed it), than it does with, say, West Baltimore. Despite its small size and bucolic setting, Newburgh occupies one of the most dangerous four-mile stretches in the northeastern United States.
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