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The posses employed every recognized principle for growing a business: marketing, advertising, R&D. Former dope fiends tell how the Jamaicans sold bigger $20 rocks than the other guy, or gave you a free rock after you'd purchased 11. Storey ran into something even more cunning--marketing campaigns pointing out the location of new traps. "There used to be Jamaicans standing on the street corner handing out pieces of paper that say $20 rock, $50 rock, apartment 110." They passed out free rocks in an apartment complex or set up a free community phone to get residents to look the other way. "Money creates corruption, and the crack creates the same problem," Storey says. "They turned South Dallas into a geographical area of victims."
You wouldn't find a Jamaican sitting in a dope house, doling out rocks under the door to desperate users. That was the work of the locals, poor South Dallas kids impressed by $50, the typical day's pay for a young lookout--entry level in the crack cocaine business--or $200 to sit inside a trap. "They would come down here and offer them pie in the sky: You'll have all the money you want. You can buy jewelry, cars, women, whatever," Hudson says. "Then they would go out and rent this little apartment somewhere, put 'em in it to sit there 24 hours a day and do nothing but sell dope. And give them a little bit of money.
"And you'd be surprised how many of these dope houses we'd go into that all you would see is chicken boxes--thousands of chicken boxes. You know, to keep them there, they'd go out and buy chicken to eat. I mean, they were slaves. They never left the house until they died. It's so pathetic."
The Jamaicans ran their business with cool, murderous precision and swift retribution for kids who saw the thousands of dollars flowing in and out of the crack houses and started wondering why they were only getting a measly couple hundred bucks. It was tempting to pocket a few more, or to slip someone else's product into the trap and take a bigger cut of the profits. But that was a deadly game. "Time and time again you go out on these murders, and it's 15- and 16-year-old kids," Hudson says. "That's what really just hammered you. You thought, well, here are kids with a life, and it's over."
James Gallagher, who's been a Dallas police homicide detective for 20 years, remembers one such case in the 1980s that let him know the city was dealing with an entirely new level of violence. It started with an anonymous call from Brooklyn telling Dallas police that they would find a young man's body at a certain address on Grand Avenue. Gallagher and another detective went there and found a locked apartment. They peeked in a window and saw there was hardly any furniture, a good sign that the place was a drug house.
"We kicked the door in," Gallagher says, "and there he was at the kitchen table. They had nailed his hands to the table and shot him in the knee before they killed him. They tortured him. And it was just a constant wave of that. The violence to us was almost unbelievable, and we work violence every day. What got us were these kids--15, 16 years old."
Hudson, who would frequently work a regular shift in homicide then get called in from home when the unit got overwhelmed, recalls the toll it took on his colleagues. "We'd get called out in the middle of the night, work all night, all day, and when we finally got to a point where we could stop, we went home, died for a few hours, and then we'd get called out again. It was just that way.
"Inside, in my psyche...I felt like, is there ever an end to it? Is it ever gonna be normal? Is this just building up for the worst? Is this the end of the world?"
By 1990, the area around Cleveland Street was controlled by rival groups of Brooklyn-based Jamaican drug dealers who had an almost mythical status in South Dallas. They dressed well, drove well, armed well; their pockets bulged with money, and their sophisticated ways and sensuous talk lured the neighborhood girls, making their own boys seem little more than scrubs. From the Silver Slipper, a nightclub on MLK Boulevard that always stayed krunk with a dancehall reggae beat and what seemed like nightly shootings, to the Caribbean liquor store nearby, where members of the Allen family--a notorious Jamaican drug ring--were known to hang out, to Elaine's Kitchen a few blocks west, where the boys would gather after hours in their gold-package BMWs and Benzes for aromatic plates of curry goat and stew beef, the Jamaican posses had the run of the 'hood.
It was easy for authorities to find their traps, Storey says. Undercover cops would wait outside Elaine's Kitchen and watch the posse members leave with stacks of take-out food for workers in the crack houses. Then it was simply a matter of follow-the-jerk-chicken. It was much tougher, however--and infinitely more dangerous--to put together a case against operators of a barricaded crack house.
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