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Clubs: New York Undercover

As clubs fill up with cops, partygoers practice narc-spotting.

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Part of descending into the underworld ecosystem that is Manhattan nightlife is classifying the rich variety of subcultural species found there -- the muscle-shirted Chelsea boy, the headphone-clad D.J. cultist, the glow-stick-waving rave kid. In the wake of last month's drug raids on clubs like Vinyl, Exit, and the Roxy, it seems that another species, thought to be extinct since the seventies, is staging a remarkable comeback: the narc.

"I was sitting at the bar of the Sound Factory last week with a bunch of friends, and this guido-looking guy whispers to me, 'Hey, man, got a couple of hits of X?' " says a regular at the west-midtown club. "Then he says, 'Come on, man' -- twice -- and starts bothering the people I was with. Finally, I said, 'Go away. None of us have anything, officer.' And he did." Another clubber says police have themselves become regulars at Twilo's monthly party featuring British D.J.'s Sasha and Digweed, but "you can tell they're undercover cops because their method is always the same: They'll ask, 'Do you have pills?' but they never name brands like Mitsubishi or Calvin Kleins."

A veteran clubgoer at Centro-Fly's popular Thursday-night house-music party "Subliminal Sessions" says that he was shocked to see an unhiply dressed man in his late thirties approach him for drugs -- with a walkie-talkie visibly strapped to his waist. " 'You know where I can get any party favors?' " the clubber remembers him asking. "I was like, 'You're either really stupid or an undercover cop. Or both.' "

If this sounds like a simple case of strobe-light-induced paranoia, it isn't: A banner over Twilo's box office warns that "undercover police are always on the premises." Both an NYPD spokesperson and New York's special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget Brennan (who's prosecuting five arrests made at the TriBeCa club Vinyl), declined to provide specifics about undercover operations. But the spokesperson warns that "enforcement in nightclubs is ongoing, as we must respond to complaints from the community about such venues." In other words, that silk-shirted ecstasy-seeker could really be a camouflaged cop.


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