|Look at all the people who aren't in the alley...because they got arrested.|
Over the past two weeks or so, neighbors on the 2600 block of 3rd and 4th Street had noticed quite a bit of traffic coming and going from the alley by the castle townhomes. The activity had all the hallmarks of something nefarious: someone who was pretty clearly a lookout/sentry, high volumes of cars that never stay for more than a few minutes, and quick exchanges with the long white tee crowd hanging out on either side of the alley.
But what raised my suspicions was something else entirely. I often walk past here when I go hula hooping at Farview Park. And on my way there and back many of the neighborhood kids who play in the parking lot will ask to try out my hoop. I give each of them a turn, and show the kids how to do some of the basic hooping moves. After a few minutes of this, the sentry would come over and tell me to move along and not play with the children. Now what's the one reason why someone wouldn't want me hula hooping with their kids?
That's right, drugs.
In case my impeccable logic isn't immediately clear, allow me to elaborate...
The conversations essentially go like this. Thug tells me I can't play with the kids and I need to move along. I ask who he is to the kids, so I can establish some kind of relationship. Thug says it doesn't matter, so move along. I ask if there's a problem, and hey, maybe we can talk to each other like grown men and work things out. Thug says the problem is that I need to move along. I say I've lived on the block for years and these kids know me and like to hula hoop, so once again, who are you and can we resolve any differences. Thug repeats the move along mantra. Kids refuse to make eye contact with anyone during this exchange. Not wanting to cause trouble for me or the kids, I do indeed go on my way.
The fact that this guy won't say a thing about who he is or the problem is quite telling. The guy couldn't even come up with something as easy as, "I'm their uncle and I don't like a grown man gyrating like that in front of these kids." (Gyrating is a big word though.) And I love the thought that I'm screwing up drug deals by hula hooping with neighborhood youth.
That being said, I do try to be careful. One night this week, a neighbor tried leaving the alley while the thugs had their deals going down. The alley was blocked and he waited and waited, but nobody moved. When he tapped his horn, several of the white tee crew came and stood in front of his car, menacing him as if HE were the one breaking the rule of law or society. One 911 call later, and five people were in cuffs. Thanks, fourth precinct!
The pictures above were taken later that evening, when the alley was empty for the first time in weeks. I've been playing phone tag with Sherman and Associates, as they are the owners of the building. The activity is on the radar screen of our CCP/Safe liaison, CM Hofstede, Lt. Hiemerl, and the East Gateway Partnership. We're hoping to nip this in the bud. Even if we do, there's still work to be done. Later that same evening I saw deals happening at the corners of 25th and 4th, as well as 23rd and 4th. Maybe there's some kids down the street who would like to learn how to hula hoop.