As if Washington Square Park hasn’t had enough trouble lately, now there’s a rising body count of suspected drug overdose deaths.
Five people have been found dead in and around the NYC landmark since May 31, including three just last week alone, according to police.
The spate of apparent overdose victims in such a short period “is definitely unusual,” said Michael Alcazar, an adjunct professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former NYPD detective who worked undercover at Washington Square Park.
The latest victim, identified as Mohamed Ali, 35, of Brooklyn, was found dead early Tuesday morning in the driver’s seat of a Ford Mustang outside the park’s northeast entrance.
Just days earlier, on Aug. 5, a man and woman were found lying face up and unconscious just outside the southwest corner of the park. Both were pronounced dead at nearby hospitals.
A 30-year-old man died “sitting on a bench, leaning against a tree” near the southwest corner of the park on July 15, police said. And a man in his 50s was found unconscious in the park just before midnight on May 31, and later pronounced dead.
“The loss of these lives is a tragedy and we continue to do our part working with sister agencies and partners to deter illicit activity in Washington Square Park and others across the city,” said Department of Parks spokesperson Crystal Howard.
The city has been battling a dramatic rise in overdose deaths for more than a year, with Health Department officials citing an influx of deadly fentanyl as the major cause.
“I don’t think we have more drug addicts out there. I think they just feel more comfortable using their drugs in the public,” said Alcazar, adding that lack of police resources and lax attitudes about drug use have helped fuel the crisis in Washington Square Park.
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