Mrs. Dave and I live in an apartment building in one of the sketchiest parts of the city, where the rent is cheap (by San Francisco standards), and there is a drug dealer on every corner.
Or, well… there used to be.
They busted them all yesterday, like, all at once. Hundreds of them, rounded up and carted away.
It started a couple of weeks ago, when I was headed down to our basement laundry room to do a load, and the elevator stopped to pick someone up. Two uniformed cops stepped aboard in the company of a plainclothes copper.
We simply exchanged nods and greetings, then they got off at the lobby, and I continued down to the laundry room.
After getting the clothes underway in a washer, I stepped onto the elevator to go back up, and it stopped at the lobby again, to pick up the plainclothes fellow.
He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, with no discernable badge or weapon showing, but I just knew he was a police officer because I’ve been around and I’m pretty good at sizing things up like that. Granted, I may not have come to that conclusion so readily if he hadn’t gone down with two uniformed buddies 15 minutes earlier, but he just kind of carried himself like a cop.
He had a couple of boxes with him this time, so I asked if he needed help with them. He politely declined, assuring me he could handle it.
Then I asked him if he was just now moving in, and I got a bouncy, roundabout answer that seemed to indicate that he might be, but he left it open. We arrived on his floor and he stepped out, precariously balancing his two cardboard boxes.
I don’t remember what his answer was, specifically, but I remember it didn’t make a lot of sense and frankly, it seemed evasive.
Two days later, I was headed up to the apartment on the elevator with Mrs. Dave, and he stepped in right behind us. I said hi to him again, he smiled and returned the greeting, so I said, “Well, if you’re going to be a new neighbor, I might as well introduce myself, I’m Dave and this is my wife, Dorian.”
He told us his name – which I’m not going to use here, so I’ll call him Frank – and then Dorian innocently said, “You’re moving in?”
We were seconds from arriving at his floor, so he filled his answer with some non-sequitur mumblings, and then, just before he stepped off, I said, “…and you’re a cop, right? Nice to have a cop for a neighbor!”
He smiled and laughed and didn’t say he was a cop, but he didn’t deny it either as he stepped into the hall as the elevator doors shut on him, and we rode the rest of the way up to our floor.
The following day I was in the breakroom at work, chatting with a co-worker whose name I will also change, so let’s call this guy Frank #2, because the whole point of me telling him about Frank from the elevator is that they both looked almost exactly alike, and the encounters in the elevator were a little weird.
I told Frank #2 that I still didn’t know if the original Frank was a cop, because I couldn’t get a straight answer. He listened intently and then asked me a few details about the encounters.
After I filled in some blanks, he looked very thoughtful for a second, and then he said, “Yep, he’s a cop.”
I said, “Well, that’s what I thought too, but how can you be sure?”
That’s when Frank #2 opened my eyes. “He’s not only a cop, he’s doing drug dealer surveillance.”
ME: “Um, what?”
Frank #2 explained that he used to work as a security guy in partnership with the Tenderloin station of the San Francisco Police Department, and he’d learned quite a bit about police operations during that time.
Also, “Tenderloin” is the neighborhood I live in, and yes, it’s named after a popular cut of meat. That’s a tour guide story for another time.
Today, the Tenderloin is a type of ‘hood that cities call a “containment zone,” meaning that things which wouldn’t be tolerated on the sidewalks of other, ritzier neighborhoods, are tolerated here.
Things such has homeless people camping in tents in front of buildings, drug dealers, and their victims shooting up right there on the street in front of everyone.
Frank #2 said that the original Frank probably sits up in the apartment during his “shift” and videos the drug trafficking to build a case against all those guys dealing on the street.
He asked me if the apartment was above the third floor, and yes, it is. Is it a corner unit with a bay window, with a great view of both intersections at either end of the block? I told him I hadn’t actually been in the apartment, but I’d imagine there’d be a good view of the street like that, sure.
“Okay then, that cinches it because that’s what they like,” he said.
“Who?” I asked. I wasn’t catching on as fast as he’d hoped.
“The San Francisco PD, they’ll use an apartment like that for surveillance when there’s a big bust coming.”
“So, you think a big bust is coming?”
“Probably, within the next week or two.”
I saw the original Frank only once after Frank #2 had run all of this by me, he was coming into the building and headed toward the elevator, but seeing that he’d be riding up with me, he instead took a sharp right turn and dashed up the stairs.
I told Frank #2 about this the next day at work, and he said, “Yep, he didn’t want to ride up with you and have you ask more questions. You’ve ‘made’ him so far, but not the surveillance part, or so he thinks, but in his mind he’s better off not talking to you.”
I asked him if he thought our building manager, Gus, knew about him.
“Well, more likely ‘them,’ because they’re doing shifts, and no, he probably just thinks someone rented that apartment. They wouldn’t have him in the loop because they don’t know if he might be connected, and drop a tip on any of the dealers regarding it.”
“But he hates the drug dealers, we all do!”
“Maybe so, but they can’t take that chance. Gus thinks they rented an apartment to a guy who only has three or four friends, who visit him a whole lot, which leads to one more question, does Gus live in the building himself?”
“No, he’s only here until 4pm weekdays.”
“There you go, the perfect apartment building for the PD to set up an operation.”
I told Frank #2 that I was thinking maybe the next time I saw the original Frank strolling through the lobby, I’d say something like, “Hey Frank, how’s the surveillance game?”
He said, “Oh please, NO, don’t! You’ll just be fooling around, but they might pull him off the operation and the fact that anyone had figured out what they’re doing might be enough for them to shut it down and move out of there.”
Yesterday, I was very glad I hadn’t said anything to the original Frank. The biggest drug dealer bust in years went down in our little ‘hood, with 17 assorted agencies involved. They were literally everywhere yesterday, fanning out in droves, slapping cuffs on all the bad guys and a few homeless people too.
They said they wouldn’t be targeting any homeless or addicts because they were going up the chain from the street dealers to the head honchos, but sometimes people living on the street will hold drugs for a dealer in exchange for ‘favors’ later. Those are probably the ones arrested.
Being my day off, I only stepped out once today, to run an errand at the Walgreens four blocks away. Not a single drug dealer in sight, over 24-hours later. I’d usually walk by at least 10 of them while doing that errand.
I know (well, I hope) this drug dealer thing is something you can’t relate to where you live, but here it’s been very common. Thanks to the original Frank and his coworkers, who don’t know I know about them, the streets are safer tonight.
However, I’m a realist, and I know they will eventually be back. Maybe not as many, and maybe not the original ones, but there’s still a market here and users know this is the place to buy.
For now, I’m just going to enjoy the respite from “Hey buddy, pssst, you want some, I got some!” as I walk to and from the bus stop.
Have a wonderous weekend, pals! See you on MONDAY.