The suspects were arrested after they allegedly sold or agreed to sell the drugs to undercover officers on numerous occasions in East Harlem. Investigators say some of the drugs were packaged in candy wrappers.
According to court documents, several of the suspects are accused of selling or agreeing to sell the pre-packaged drugs to undercover police officers on dozens of occasions near East 118th Street and Lexington Avenue -- an area previously identified as being among the most dangerous in Manhattan.
Many of the alleged drug sales happened in or outside neighborhood homes and convenience stores, and many of the suspects were armed with illegal guns at the time, police said.
The defendants face varying felony and misdemeanor charges, including conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance and criminal sale of marijuana. One of the defendants was also charged with two felony counts of criminal possession of a weapon.
"Areas where there is a high prevalence of drug sales are often breeding grounds for violence," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said in a statement. "It is no accident that we are focusing on this neighborhood."
The 81-count indictment stems from a nearly two-year joint investigation by the district attorney's Crime Strategies Unit and the NYPD's Manhattan North Narcotics Bureau.
Residents, though, questioned how much of an impact the arrests will make in stopping crime in their neighborhood.
Outreach coordinator Tracy Wroten doubts today's indictment will have a lasting impact.