NYPD Busts Weapons Dealers
New York, NY; United States
August 21, 2013
Armand Damari and Matt Dinsmore
A little over a year ago, smalltime rapper Neno (Matthew) Best began selling illegal weapons for his recording studio in Brooklyn, New York, and posting images of his profits on Instagram. This ultimately led to the largest gun bust in the history of New York State. On August 21st of this year, the New York Police Department held a conference to display the 243 handguns, 9 rifles, and two shotguns that had been confiscated, name the 19 perpetrators, and thank the one undercover officer responsible for the success of the operation.
After Best’s Instagram images were discovered by the NYPD due to an unrelated narcotics investigation, an undercover officer was sent to scout the situation. The weapon trade was linked through Adeji Omole, who was buying the weapons from two unrelated parties in the southern United States. These two men, Earl Campbell of Rock Hill, South Carolina and Walter Walker of Sanford, North Carolina, had been selling weapons across state lines, but did not want to sell directly in Brooklyn because of the stop-and-frisk laws enacted throughout New York City. So the undercover officer stepped in, acting as Campbell’s and Walker’s access to the City. The officer began to buy all the weapons the two had to offer as to keep them of the streets of Brooklyn. He usually bought fourteen weapons at each sale, and these sales eventually accumulated to a hefty sum of $152,000, $75,000 to Campbell and $82,000 to Walker. This fact made it relatively easy to manipulate the suspects, as they were only concerned with the money involved, and seemingly concerned with neither the consequences of their situation nor the consequences that were inevitable for citizens of the city. Both suspects and all their accomplices were eventually arrested beginning on August 2nd, with wiretapped audio taken by the undercover officer as evidence (Baddock).
This type of weapons trades and crimes of this kind are not rare occurrences. It is even often thought that trying to stop such crime is nearly worthless because of the overwhelmingly large amount of firearms currently in circulation and being used, and thus firearms are too readily available to control. Most of these firearms are acquired by straw purchase sales, or the act of one qualified buyer buying the firearm for an unauthorized buyer, though many people assume that most illegal weapons are acquired by theft. Theft is in fact too slow of a process to keep up with the demand for illegal weapons. The main demographics of buyers of illegal weaponry are those underage or those who have a criminal record, which in both cases can cause unease and havoc with such firearms (Braga). But a solution can begin to be generated in the realm of architecture. Weapon dealing rings can be avoided and contained by using police enforcement effectively within the current individual and communal design, and understanding how privacy in social media should be viewed and used.
As there have always been weapons in the United States, there has always been the illegal weapons trade. So how have police officers across the nation been able to fight this constant battle against intricate interstate weapons deals? Initially, gun control laws have been put in place to set the guidelines for what is legal in the weapons world. These guidelines are fairly relaxed compared to elsewhere in the world, especially compared to the United Kingdom. Though both countries have similar specific regulations when it comes to hunting and other recreational weapon use, the United Kingdom completely bans guns outside of these uses, while the United States holds true to the 2nd Amendment of the Bill of Rights in that all citizens may have a handgun if they so desire, and can acquire a permit to have any other type of weapon (Britannica). The difference in gun laws between states sometimes fuels illegal weapon dealing rings such as the one busted by the NYPD. States in the southwest and southeast are generally states that have more lenient gun control laws, and thus are usually the states that are accused of providing hubs for the illegal weapons trade. In fact, Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York called out some of these states during the NYPD press conference on August 21st about the need for more gun control laws in those states, as their gun laws are now affecting states with harsher regulations (Baddock). However, the subject of gun control is far too touchy to change, or even mention changing, in many of those states. When gun control laws don’t work effectively, the police have no choice but to invade the suspect’s house, as they had to do in Brooklyn. At this point, protocol and training, as well as the knowledge of the architecture of the house acquired by undercover officers, such as knowing the location of all possible exits and even the floor plan to understand possible hiding places for weapons, is what makes these busts effective.
Though police forces around the world are getting better at cracking down on illegal weapons rings, many believe that some of the problem can be solved from the beginning. There are many efforts across the nation to design cities and urban towns in a way to help limit activity such as weapon dealing, as well as drug dealing, prostitution, and gang violence. Techniques such as heightened security with security camera and patrols, to creating more visible areas by getting rid of unnecessary walls and pocket spaces, have been used to combat these community-ruining activities. Many communities are focusing on the street and sidewalk as a means of controlling crime, as connecting all spaces visually to the street connects them to the movement of people and to fully connect all spaces, creating delimitation. Methods as simple as making an area better kept and beautiful have been proven to decrease crime rates (Porada).
Along with the issue of gun control, social media also played quite a large role in the case, especially when discussing Matthew Best himself. Without Instagram, it can’t be said for sure if the 19 suspects would have been caught any time soon, if at all. Best made the mistake to assume that the things he posted were to a certain extent private. This is a relatively common mistake, as public posts are assumed to be only seen by those we know, not everyone around the world. But with social media becoming more and more prominent and influential, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep anything posted private (Barnes). In some cases, such as the Best case, this lack of privacy is fortunate and helps the common good. However, it can be said that everything that is put into the realm of the Internet can be seen and used by undesirable viewers. This can be compared to the panoptic principle, which has been used in many prisons to maintain order by giving the illusion of constant surveillance, whether the prisoners and actually being constantly surveyed or not. This principle can be used very effectively through the Internet if the government ever chose to use it. But at the moment, this could be considered too great a breach of privacy to be deemed acceptable. So at what point is too little privacy unacceptable? This question has historically been extremely difficult to answer, and will certainly remain so in the coming years.
nenobest, . Photo of Sig Sauger. 2013. Photograph. Instagram, Brooklyn NY. Web. 16 Sep 2013.
nenobest, . Money Shot 1. 2013. Photograph. Instagram, Brooklyn NY. Web. 16 Sep 2013.
nenobest, , and nenobest. Money Shot 2. 2013. Photograph. Instagram, Brooklyn NY. Web. 16 Sep 2013.
Maisel, Todd, and . 1991 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY. 2013. Photograph. The New York Daily News, Brooklyn NY. Web. 16 Sep 2013.
Image shows the 254 confiscated weapons that were proudly displayed at the new york police press conference.
Olivarez-Giles, Nathan. “Aspiring Rapper’s Instagram Photos Lead to Largest Gun Bust in New York City History.” The Verge. . http://www.theverge.com/2013/8/21/4641484/neno-best-instagram-youtube-massive-nypd-gun-bust (accessed September 7, 2013).
Provides general information about the story and how the parties were involved. Olivarez-Giles summarizes the process of the bust and how the police were involved. Also, the article provided other relevant sources.
Baddock, Barry. “NYPD announces 250 illegal firearms seized, 19 arrested in gun ring that stretched into South.” . http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/largest-seizure-illegal-guns-announced-article-1.1430629 (accessed September 8, 2013).
Baddock writes about the seizure in general terms. He also provides all the instagram photos in question and many other photos of the NYPD’s press conference.
Barnes, Susan. “A Privacy Paradox: Social Networking in the United States.” First Monday. . http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1394/1312 (accessed September 23, 2013).
Barnes talks about social networking and how it gives the illusion of privacy. we think that the content we put online is only going to be seem by people that are close. this become a paradox because people willing give up personal information but they think that it is private data.
York, Jillian. “How social network policies are changing speech and privacy norms.” Aljazeera. . http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/05/20135175216204375.html (accessed September 8, 2013).
York talks about the regulations on privacy of content on social networks, and how for the most part, it goes beyond what is required by the government. This source helps to look at the social network side of the controversy.
Logiach, . “Social Networking Technology: New Public Sphere.” Introduction to Digital Media. . http://idm09.wordpress.com/2009/11/17/social-networking-technology-new-public-sphere/ (accessed September 23, 2013).
This article examines the broadening of the public sphere as social networks become more engrained in our society. The relationship between public and private has also started to blur together as people become more public about their private lives. The article tracks this shift, showing how it is redefining the space in which we live.
Porada, Barbara. “How to Design Safer Cities” 19 Feb 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Sep 2013. http://www.archdaily.com/334077
Porada writes about the many views on how to design a city to be safer. She also writes about how bad habits can be spread, but good habits can be powerful enough to displace the bad ones.
Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “gun control,” accessed September 08, 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/683775/gun-control.
Provides a general entry on gun control in both the United States and the world. This provides third party information on the actually laws that pertain to gun control.
Braga, Anthony, Philip Cook, and Mark Moore. “The Illegal Supply of Firearms.” Crime and Justice. no. 2 (2002): 319-352. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1147711 (accessed September 7, 2013).
Braga describes that it is procedure for the police force to hunt the suppliers of illegal weapon trade to prevent most illegal sales. The more limited illegal weapons dealers are made, the more limited illegal weapons in circulation will be. This explains why the NYPD pursued the dealers in the weapons bust.
Philip J. Cook, Jens Ludwig, Sudhir Venkatesh and Anthony A. Braga
The Economic Journal , Vol. 117, No. 524, Features (Nov., 2007), pp. F588-F618
Cook explains the economics of the illegal gun trade and interviews many people involved in underground weapons deals. This provides more information on the underground weapons trade itself, while not being through the eyes of the police.
Christopher S. Koper and Peter Reuter Law and Contemporary Problems , Vol. 59, No. 1, Kids, Guns, and Public Policy (Winter, 1996), pp. 119-146 http://www.jstor.org/stable/1192212
Koper and Reuter look at illegal weapon markets and link it to illegal drug markets. This broadens the scope of the illegal weapons trade and brings other topics into play.
1991 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn, NY. 2013. Map. Google MapsWeb. 8 Sep 2013. https://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&q=gun%20shop%20floor%20plan&um=1&bih=729&biw=1440&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=pv.xjs.s.en_US.jkEW54nYU50.O&ie=UTF-
This image shows the address of Matthew Best’s residence at the time of the bust. This provides a view of the home and the neighborhood.
Video and Audio
Martin, Abbey. “The World of Illegal Arms Trafficking .” breakingtheset Recorded May 03 2013. Web,
This is a video about the effects of weapons violence around the world. It gives visual graphics and multiple points of view on gun violence and how it should be dealt with.
Bloomberg, Micheal. “Mayor Bloomberg Announces the Largest Seizure of Illegal Guns in City History.” mayorbloomberg Recorded Aug 19 2013. youtube. Web,
This is the video released by the NYPD about the weapons bust. It’s a good reference to see what the NYPD thought about the bust and the information they knew.