I got pretty excited last night when I heard a couple of women were attempting to knife each other in a parking lot in Pleasant Grove. Not, you know, because ladies knifing each other is my thing, but because I really wanted to crank up the sirens, throw on the red and blue lights and speed to the scene with Officers Roach and Bacon (I know!), with whom I'd been riding along as part of the Dallas Police Department's efforts to publicize their summer crime-stopping initiative, Operation Triangle.
Sadly, another unit responded to the scene, and the thrill I got from riding in the back seat "cage" at top speed with sirens blaring was over all too quickly. But it's summer time, when crime is at its worst, so chances are there'll be plenty more knifings -- and shootings and drug-slingings and various other nefarious what-have-yous for Roach and Bacon to investigate, anyway.
I started out early yesterday evening at police headquarters, where DPD Deputy Chief Malik Aziz told reporters about Operation Triangle, the initiative that is basically like exactly what the cops do every day -- the crime-solving, the punk-bustin', etc. -- but this time, with gusto! They're focusing on property crime, drug activity and "public disorder," which includes letting Dallasites know it's illegal to walk around in public with an open container. Gang units, SWAT teams and patrols have been coordinated to work during the heaviest crime hours -- Wednesdays through Saturdays from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. -- in order to have the maximum amount of resources on the streets at once.
Resources that are, at the moment, somewhat limited. The squad cars' laptops usually have access to something called AIS, a county records database that provides mugshots and other information on individuals booked into the county. But because of that pesky main break last week, say the cops I talked to, the system has been unreliable. Which means they have to take folks' word for it if they don't have photo ID on them, and some warrants and parole violations will remain unknown to officers. Bad timing for the summer season.
From what I understood, crime's worse in the summer because people are hot and pissed off, plus those damned punk kids are out of school. People hang out outside. They get mixed up in bad business. And if potential perps are very unlucky, they'll commit a minor traffic infraction, be pulled over by any number of the violent crime patrols cruising around Dallas and be taken in once their parole violations, warrants and stolen property and/or drugs are run through the computer or confiscated by the fuzz.
And so to those of you ridin' dirty, I offer this advice: Make sure your car has a front license plate. The cops I rode with last night never hesitated to pull folks over for this infraction, and it resulted in at least one arrest. (More advice: Maybe also do not ride around with a bunch of coke in your pocket and let the police pat you down and search your vehicle before it occurs to you to ask for a lawyer. Just saying.)
For most of the night, then, that's just what we -- you know, me and my cop buddies -- did. Looked for stupid driving mistakes, ran plates, ran IDs and saw how many folks we could find with serious warrants -- aggravated assault, rape, murder, things of that nature. It was basically the best time ever.
Most all of the guys on the three different squads I rode with expressed interest in the Observer's fine back page advertising -- purely professional, you understand -- and chugged energy drinks all night long. They're used to being lied to -- the greying guy who was popped with a truck full of stolen laptops in far southeast Dallas told us his D.O.B. was in 1989, ha ha, funny joke, dude. Just a few minutes into my first ride-along, and some poor guy with a broken break light who just happened to have all this computer equipment was on his way to jail. So I was transferred to ride with Officers Fleischer and Tinajero, who gave me my first-ever look at actual cocaine.
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I am kind of square in the drug way -- pot pipes confuse me, and I've never seen anything harder than a prescription bottle of Adderall in the wild. So when Officer Fleischer pulled a baggie of coke off a guy in a grey Honda, I naturally asked him if I could take a hit. Or bump. Or whatever it is they call it. He laughed, because I am a hilarious joker.
I watched as he field-tested the coke -- you may recall an extremely small and under-publicized DPD fake drug scandallette from back in the day -- and I watched it turn blue, then pink, then black to blue. Stuff was pure. As Coke Duder was hauled off to jail, I was passed on to Officers Roach and Bacon (again, I know!) who had some truly fine transport for me: an actual squad car with a plastic bench and a cage and the faint smell of vomit and marijuana and everything. I was like a kid in a staph-ridden candy shop.
But even though Roach and Bacon took me over to Pleasant Grove, the city's premiere hot spot for shit-going-down, the night was relatively quiet. We pulled over an illegal immigrant who may or may not have been given the impression ICE is going to show up at his house this morning (I KNOW) and told a couple of homeless dudes to quit hanging out in the middle of the Jim Miller median, as they do.
"It's almost impossible to put people in jail in the summer," Officer Roach told me, because in addition to regular old rape and murder and the like, they also do an awful lot of service calls -- folks don't have air conditioning, they get sick, etc. -- so resources are stretched thin when it comes to fighting for-real crime. If I wanted to see some real action, though, Bacon told me as they dropped me back off at my car in the safety of the South Side On Lamar shadow, I should come out one summer Saturday. I think I'll take 'em up on it. But only if I can ride in the cage some more.