A 67-year-old New York City woman has filed a lawsuit against the NYPD, saying she was arrested and thrown in jail for calling to report drug dealing in her apartment building too many times for the NYPD’s liking, the New York Daily News is reporting.
Arles Cepeda lives in the Bronx, in New York City Housing Authority’s Castle Hills Houses. Tired of seeing drug dealers line the hallways to her apartment, she called 311 — New York City’s non-emergency line where residents can make complaints or access other city services — to report them.
In the stretch of 15 months, Ms. Cepeda would call 311 44 times to report drug dealers, and 911 twice. Each time, the police would turn up, the drug dealers would wise up and disperse, and the police would find nothing that they could go on.
“I kept calling, but no one ever did anything.”
She also complained to building management, several times, about the drug dealers, also to no avail.
Her lawsuit alleges that on December 4, 2012, narcotics investigator Theodore Stefatos told her to stop calling 311 to report drug dealers, according to Counter Current News. After the next phone call, NYPD officers showed up with handcuffs.
“I was handcuffed behind my back. And my neighbors saw me. I was so embarrassed.”
She also claims that officers at the 43rd Precinct threatened to have her locked up in a mental institution.
“If you continue calling, I’m gonna take you to the pysch unit at Jacobi Hospital.”
Cepeda was charged with filing a false police report — which is a misdemeanor — and given a notice to appear in court.
Except when she appeared in court, there was no case: no docket number, no paperwork, no paper trail of any charges. Ms. Cepeda’s lawyer, Mark Cohen, says that police likely never forwarded her charges to the District Attorney, meaning their threats — and their jailing her — were all intimidation tactics.
Mr. Cohen points out that charging her with filing a police report makes absolutely no sense, since Ms. Cepeda never filed anything — all she did was make phone calls.
Ms. Cepeda’s suit argues that the NYPD’s actions violated her First Amendment rights to free speech. As of this post, it is unclear what she is demanding in her lawsuit.
Contacted by a New York Post reporter about the allegations, Officer Stefatos refused to discuss the matter.
Do you believe Ms. Cepeda made an excessive number of calls reporting drug dealers and deserved the treatment she got? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image courtesy of: Counter Current News]