Early in March a female officer could be seen strolling the sidewalk on West 12th between Vine and Race. Several years back she would have encountered 70 to 80 loiterers at 12th and Republic, all doing business in front of a bodega that tolerated their presence. Drug mules and sellers, addicts, prostitutes, loansharks, numbers runners and bookies jostled for room and attention. Suburban folks in SUV's and Volvos would pull up to make purchases. They would receive service that surpassed the drive-in window of any fast food franchise you can name. All that is gone now, and the buildings on the corner have been rehabbed, one for condos, and one for an SRO for mentally ill homeless people.
The officer encountered nothing but quiet, and the comforting blue glow of a television from the window of a Tender Mercies common room. She got back in her cruiser, and rolled north on Republic, west on 13th, the south on Race to our neighborhood's best option for the alcoholic in the final stages of his or her disease: Carl's 1132 Bar.
Drugs are still sold in front of Carl's, usually on the 12th Street side. There are also sellers and lookouts posted across the street in the vicinity of the Lord's Gym. Our officer strolled, literally strolled, through the crowd assembled at 12th and Race.
She is chatting with somebody on her shoulder radio, but it sounds to informal for 911-speak. "Yeah, on the northeast corner I've got five males, two females, on the southeast I've got seven males, one probable transaction. Another transaction near northwest corner, at park entrance. I think that's Leon Burkhart drinking inside there. We have any warrants on Leon? Uh huh. Right."
It's like a science fiction movie, a Twilight Zone episode where one person remains to walk through a population frozen in stopped time. The officer walks among the loiters, but nobody looks directly at her. Loud talk instantly ceases; people suddenly chat about the weather or remain silent, nodding, agreeing with nothing at all. The officers saunters back to her vehicle.
You would think this episode would be interpreted as a harbinger of things to come, and maybe it was. Nobody's routine seemed to change, however. And two days later, when Operation Vortex SUV's, supported by officers in cruisers and on motorcycles arrived, nobody ran, nobody tried to shoot it out.
Jail is inevitable if contraband is your chosen profession. No need for drama here; we're all professionals. One suspect was even allowed to finish his beer. He chatted briefly with officers about the nature of the warrant on him, and about what sort of pitching he believed the Reds would have this year. Everybody agreed it would come down to starting pitching.