Bedbugs infest Staten Island's 120th Precinct lockup
Staten Island Advance
Thursday, July 7, 2011
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- A bedbug problem has spurred the NYPD to
shut down the holding-cell area in the 120th Precinct station in
St. George, leading the city's Department of Correction to summon
an exterminator to make sure the pests haven't spread to the pens
in Stapleton Criminal Court, according to multiple NYPD and court
For the last few days, prisoners have been diverted to holding
cells in precincts off-Island while exterminators fumigate the
holding cells, sources tell the Advance.
"The prisoners were relocated to another police holding facility
while the problem is being addressed and the situation rectified,"
confirmed Detective Cheryl Crispin, an NYPD spokeswoman, last
night. She did not elaborate.
Now several police officers are worried that they might have
brought the bedbugs home with them, sources said.
The holding cells at the precinct are notoriously grimy, and last
month a masseuse filed a lawsuit against the city claiming she'd
been held in a "filthy, unhygienic cell" last summer and forced to
clean an overflowing toilet.
The latest problems unfolded when a prisoner being held in one of
the cells complained about finding bedbugs, said
The brass at the precinct looked into it, and "there were some
critters found in the area where the cell attendant works,"
according to one NYPD insider.
That led police to fumigate the cells on Wednesday, but it didn't
take - when prisoners started returning to the cells about 7 p.m.,
another bedbug complaint forced cops to shut the cells down again
an hour later, police sources said.
"They're trying to process as few people as they can through
there," said one source.
As of last night, prisoners were being rerouted to the 61st
Precinct in Coney Island, as they await transfer to court, sources
The situation also has attracted the interest of the city
Department of Correction, which is sending an exterminator into the
holding cell area of the Stapleton Criminal Court, where criminal
defendants are taken after being held at the precinct
"We are aware of concerns in the Staten Island 120 Precinct
regarding bedbugs," wrote Correction spokeswoman Sharman Stein in
an e-mailed statement yesterday. "DOC will have an exterminator go
out tomorrow [Friday] to inspect our Staten Island court facilities
[holding pens]. If there is a problem, we will arrange to treat the
pens with a combination of steam and chemicals when the pens are
empty - over the weekend."
She added, "At this time, we have no reports of staff or inmates
complaining about bedbug bites."
Arlene Hackel, a spokeswoman for the state court system, said the
Stapleton Criminal Court building has had no problems with bedbugs,
and that the court has been operating as normal.
One inmate was found to have a bedbug on him while in a transport
van to the court, but "he was removed, and the van he was in was
taken care of," Ms. Hackel said.
One defense attorney, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that
bedbugs have been a problem in the holding cells for several
months, and about a month ago, a defendant emerged from a cell with
"bites all over his body."
Last month, 31-year-old Gabrielle Vignolini filed a federal lawsuit
against the city, the NYPD and several unnamed officers, alleging
she'd been held in one of the precinct station's cells for 17 hours
last August, then released without so much as a
She contended the cell's water fountain was broken and the toilet
was overflowing and depositing waste and water onto the floor. Ms.
Vignolini alleged that police denied her request to be placed in
another lockup, and just before her release, a female officer
ordered her and another prisoner - the owner of the spa where she'd
been taken into custody - to wipe up the cell floor.
Ms. Vignolini is a licensed massage therapist and was working as an
independent contractor at Morounfola Beauty Spa on Water Street in
Stapleton, according to court papers. She was arrested during a
sweep while the spa was holding a "friends-and-family event" for
invited guests prior to the business' public opening a week later,
according to the lawsuit.
Ms. Vignolini alleges she was never issued a summons or arraigned
on any criminal charges, and a spokesman for District Attorney
Daniel Donovan confirmed that the office declined to charge Ms.