CBS2 Exclusively Finds Men Nodding Off After One Admits To Smoking K2

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to reveal his plan to deal with the homeless and mentally ill on Thursday, and the night before, two neighborhoods that strongly supported the mayor said help cannot come soon enough.

As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, residents of Harlem said the drug, also known as K2 or Spice, is ruining parts of their neighborhood.

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“The mayor needs to do something, because as far as I’m concerned, seeing this all this every day like this – it’s the new heroin, it’s the new crack, and it’s disgusting,” said Harlem resident Billie Holiday.

Holiday could not believe what was happening in the heart of her historic neighborhood. Street people and the homeless in Harlem are seen all around under the influence of synthetic marijuana.

Moments after CBS2 took video of one man, he passed out at the corner of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue. A paramedic told Aiello he had no doubt the man was wasted on K2.

“It’s eating up their minds,” a woman said. “They’re zombies after that.”

In Harlem Wednesday morning, CBS2’s Ilana Gold found homeless men openly smoking the synthetic drug. One man admitted that he had been smoking K2, and said he got it “off the street.”

This man admitted to smoking synthetic marijuana, or K2, in Harlem. (Credit: CBS2)

This man admitted to smoking synthetic marijuana, or K2, in Harlem. (Credit: CBS2)

Aiello even found a full packet of K2 lying around on Lexington Avenue, and many empties littering the street nearby.

It is illegal for bodegas to sell the drug, but many do so anyway – under the counter.

“This neighborhood is riddled! It’s infested!” said Tracie Stewart of Harlem.

The problem is also seen in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Residents said homeless people at the shelter on Clarkson Avenue get high on K2.

“The ambulance come out there every day and pick up somebody,” said Tomlin Anderson of East Flatbush.

CBS2 found packages of synthetic drugs in a pile of garbage on the property of Kings County Hospital Center.

The NYPD admits use of the drug is a crisis, and while many users enter a catatonic state, a few can turn violent.

In a disturbing video obtained by CBS2, a naked homeless man, said to be under the influence of synthetic marijuana, is seen blocking a Brooklyn school safety vehicle. The man is howling and irrational.

Witnesses to that type of unpredictable behavior describe it as frightening.

“Every time I get off this train I worry about getting harassed by people that use this K2. You can see their violent nature they’re displaying,” one person told CBS2’s Gold.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton sounded the alarm about the drug earlier this week. Police said the drug is taking a toll on the homeless because it is so accessible.

Bodegas illegally sell synthetic marijuana for $5 a packet, according to police.

“It’s laced with chemicals and as fast as we are able to identify the chemicals and get that particular chemical — make it against the law — they change the makeup of it,” Bratton said.

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Raymond Kilgore said he is afraid every time he walks the street with his children.

“They’ve got kids right there and they’re smoking K2 like it’s good,” he said. “It’s crazy!”

And Bratton said arresting people on the drug is difficult and dangerous.

“These individuals, many under the influence of this drug are totally crazy, superhuman strength, impervious to pain so some of the normal take downs that we would use are not going to work,” he said. “It’s going to take a combination of Tasers and, often times, take more officers.”

The NYPD said it is illegal to sell K2, but not to smoke it. On Thursday, a state board will consider new regulations to outlaw the possession of synthetic marijuana.

Mayor’s Announcement On Homelessness Delayed

Mayor de Blasio had planned to address the issue of homelessness, mental health and violence during a roundtable discussion Wednesday afternoon, but postponed it until Thursday.

The mayor’s spokesperson told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer the homeless plan was delayed because at the 11th hour officials discovered they needed to “finalize one aspect of the policy.” There was no further explanation.

However, for a progressive mayor wary of stepping on the rights of his constituents, any plan to get people off the streets is a landmine of legal and political issues, Kramer reported.

The mayor and his police commissioner have to make sure every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted.

“Any individual who’s homeless and breaks the law will find themselves subject to enforcement,” de Blasio said on Tuesday.

CBS2 has learned the mayor’s plan specifically focuses on the homeless who are mentally ill and, in particular, those who are violent. De Blasio has said a good percentage of the homeless have mental health issues.

De Blasio press secretary Karen Hinton told Kramer the new plan will deal with ways “to get the mentally ill homeless, especially the violent homeless, off the streets.”

In June, the mayor announced a $6 billion plan over the next four years to create programs and find beds for the homeless and give them vouchers to pay for housing — a $1 billion increase over previous spending.

At this point, it’s unclear when his plan will go into effect.

But Arnold Cohen with Partnership for the Homeless said something has to change fast. He said the city has to step in and give more support to mental health services, but it’s not just about funding.

“Our shelters have become a poor substitute for mental health services and that can’t continue,” he told Gold. “The real question is how are these services going to be delivered and where the services are going to be delivered and that’s the question we need to ask the mayor.”

Bratton said last month that part of his plan to address the homeless will be to train about 10,000 cops to deal with the problem of how to cope with the street homeless, about 40 percent he said are emotionally disturbed.

“A lot of it has to do with how do you approach a person that might have emotional issues, the de-escalation that goes on with that,” Bratton said last month. “Trying to identify symptoms of schizophrenia versus an overdose in drugs.”

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Bratton said the officers will be accompanied in many cases by medical experts or homeless outreach experts to handle disruptive or quality-of-life situations.