Acting on a tip from an Orthodox community source, narcotics detectives from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office raided a Midwood apartment last week and confiscated 66 marijuana plants, worth an estimated $50,000.
After executing a search warrant, the detectives arrested Leopold Ostreicher, 35, at the scene and charged him with felony possession of marijuana, a first-degree felony punishable by two-and-a-third to seven years in jail. Ostreicher, who has lived in the seventh-floor apartment on Ocean Parkway for two years, told authorities he is an interior designer.
Ostreicher’s apartment contained a sophisticated hydroponic set-up complete with intricate ventilation and sun lamps on ceiling tracks, according to the authorities, who said he was a major provider of marijuana to Orthodox youth.
It was the second major arrest in one month stemming from a tip in Brooklyn’s Orthodox community, which is grappling with what it terms an alarming increase in at-risk youth behavior, including drug abuse.
Last month police arrested Yitzchak Fried, reportedly known among troubled youth as the "Pot Rabbi," alleging that he was a major source of marijuana in Borough Park and Flatbush.
Fried is currently free on $5,000 bond while awaiting arraignment. Marijuana is considered a "gateway" drug that leads users to other narcotics.
In both cases, "someone from the community who is interested in helping solve this problem provided the information," says Avery Mehlman, the chief narcotics prosecutor in Brooklyn.
Police narcotics units were also on "heightened alert" Monday night, Purim eve, when some Jewish youths are known to use drugs and alcohol to enhance their festivities, Mehlman said. Attention was focused on two nightclubs, in Brighton Beach and Bensonhurst, but no arrests were made.
Mehlman said that while District Attorney Charles J. Hynes was committed to tracking down and arresting those who supply at-risk youth with narcotics, "enforcement alone is not the answer. Prevention and treatment must be part of the solution."
In another sign of increasing response to Orthodox drug abuse, the Vaad Harrabanim of Queens convened an "urgent conference" of yeshiva principals and parent representatives Sunday night. Representatives of Jewish anti-drug groups such as the Jewish Association on Chemical Dependency, Mothers Aligned Saving Kids and Priority 1, as well as the Queens DA’s office discussed "practical measures to combat this plague," according to a statement by the rabbinical board.
Priority 1, a yeshiva program in Cedarhurst, L.I., is also sponsoring a series of workshops for at-risk youth Sunday at the Ramada Conference Center in East Hanover, N.J.