About an hour ago, cops on horses and motorcycles and in vans and squad cars showed up near the corner of Maple and Wyclif, which is just north of the Observer office. More than a dozen officers are now on the street, stopping drivers to check for license and registration, and maybe, if they're lucky (the cops, not the drivers), the smell of marijuana or the sight of an unregistered handgun. Apparently, the Maple and Wycliff area is a "red zone" or "hot spot," which is police lingo for a high crime area.
Sergeant Paul Junger, a motorcycle cop on the street, told me the Dallas Police Department has been running these impromptu traffice checkpoints in random neighborhoods for last few months. It's a Chief Kunkle initiative, Junger said, designed to "put manpower in areas that require attention," although it was difficult to tell exactly what these cops were accomplishing other than backing up traffic.
Motorists without a driver's license were required to pull over while officers jotted down their license plate numbers. The mounted cops were there to walk through the neighborhood, Junger said, looking for suspiscious activity. Junger wouldn't say what kind of crime plagues the Observer's back yard, but a man who was sitting across the street in front of a taqueria said there is a lot of drug dealing in the area. Not much violence, he said, other than a fight in front of Joe's, a bar across the street, the night before that spilled into the street.
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Drugs are the real problem, said the man, who asked that his name not be used. In fact, if I was looking for some marijuana he could help me out, and he'd make sure I didn't get ripped off. --Jesse Hyde