Years ago, I was permanently assigned (i.e. 3 years) to a particularly rough neighbourhood as a Beat Cop. What this means is that, along with my partner, I walked a certain area (or beat) every shift, responding to street crimes and addressing community concerns (specifically, illegal drug activity).
It was the best assignment I ever had.
For three years, my partner and I got to know every drug dealer, user, and spectator in that 8-block area. We knew who belonged, who was trying to take get out, and who was trying to make their way in.
And they knew us.
For the most part, the people who lived and owned businesses in the area were not bothered by the street-level drug dealing. The crime that those purchasing drugs brought in with them caused the problems, but that’s another story for another post.
Everyone else got along well enough.
And then a new game came to town. A small, seemingly well-organized group of street-level drug dealers decided that they were going to make this area their own. They muscled the weaker dealers out, threatened the stronger ones, and began robbing residents and business owners alike at knife-point. The give-and-take relationship between the established criminal element and the community had been disrupted by these new people.
My partner and I were approached by the known criminals and the residents and business owners, all asking us to do something.
This was a community concern.
After doing a bit of investigation, we determined that the main drug dealing by this new group was happening inside of a restaurant that was under new management. No one in the neighbourhood had been inside and, unlike the other business owners, the new managers were not at all cooperative with my partner and I when we suggested that they might jeopardize any hope of running a clean business if they allowed the drug dealers to conduct their criminal activity inside the premises.
Now, before I go on, you need to know that directly across from this particular restaurant was a funeral home. Being a downtown location, parking was limited to whatever could be found on the street. Historically, the drug dealers did not interfere at all with the funeral home. There was a code of honour that was clearly understood and followed.
And then an elderly woman leaving the evening visitation for her late husband was robbed by one of these new dealers. While she was not physically harmed, she was very shaken.
The entire community demanded that the Police take action.
The following evening, my partner and I switched our shift around so that we were working from 10 pm – 6 am. We set up inside the darkened second floor of the funeral home and watched the dealers ply their trade. Using our police radios, we would contact the other officers we had working with us after each drug deal to provide a description of the dealer. The officers would wait for the dealer to leave the restaurant and walk around the corner before swooping in to make the arrest.
By the time the shift was done, over fifteen dealers were arrested.
Every person that was arrested had a quantity of cash and drugs consistent with dealing on their person. My partner and I were called to testify at each trial, giving evidence that included the exact time of the offence and how the offence occurred (i.e. the hand-off).
Now, set your mind back a moment.
Recall that my partner and I were doing our observations in a funeral home. Prior to locking us in for the evening (he only had one set of keys…I know…), the Director advised that there was plenty of fresh coffee in the pot in the basement and to help ourselves. Very kind.
So, there we were. Alone. In a funeral home. A large funeral home. It was nighttime. After midnight, even. To not draw attention to ourselves, we had all of the lights in the building turned off.
At the time, seeing the empty rooms, I assumed that there were no bodies in the funeral home. And so, off I went to get myself and my partner a cup of coffee. In the basement. You know where this is going, don’t you?
While it seems painfully obvious now, it did not occur to me then that caskets were not left in the rooms where the viewing occurred. It did not occur to me that they would actually be wheeled into those rooms for said viewing and then taken back to wherever they were being stored. Like in the basement.
I discovered this for myself that night. When I went to get the coffees. In the basement. Full of caskets with dead bodies in them.
I wish I had known that before.
In any event, I survived (barely) and , while the drug dealing did not leave that area, the Code was back in effect.
You might find tidbits like this scattered throughout the Mike O’Shea Crime Fiction series. Drop me a line and let me know when you do!
Until next week, I’m 10-7 for shift.
Desmond Ryan – Real Detective. Real Crime. Fiction