Sunday, April 09, 2006

Welcome to Dim

I don't know the reason, but some of my sharpest recollections are of events that transpired decades ago. These occurred during my first few years on the job when I couldn't wait to suit up and hit the street. Before the tedium and senseless violence starts to wear thin.

After graduating from the academy January 1975, I was assigned to the Crime Control Team(CCT), a unit that policed the city's six designated high crime areas. CCT used a team policing concept; there were at least three cops assigned to each beat, a service car or two and a crime car.

The service car handled the routine calls for service such as motor vehicle accidents (signal 79), ambulance calls (signal 78), bar fights (signal kickass - lots and lots of those), domestic disturbances (the infamous signal 76) and minor offenses. The crime car responded to all felony complaints and was responsible for followup investigations. The CCT didn't pass felonies up to the detectives except for major crimes such as murder and bank robbery. This was also a major difference between us and the regular patrol guys. We also wore white shirts and Patrol wore blue.

As a rookie I worked with an an experienced officer who showed me the ropes. You soon learn that the academy doesn't teach you how to be a cop. It gives you the tools but someone really has to teach you how to become proficient in their use. My first beat assignment was in an area on the City's near West End, better known as 59 Territory. This territory was what the urban renewal specialists would call a "transition area" as it was in the process of transitioning from a first class sewer to a third rate cesspool.

Tonight I was thinking about one of the cops I worked with back then, a man that I became good friends with. Ed (not his real name) was a unique individual. Anyone who met this man in his official capacity could never forget him. He retired on a disability pension years ago, but in his prime he was fearsome.

Ed was the absolute monarch of 59 Territory. He ruled with an iron fist. His eloquence was not manifested by his speech, but in his gaze and the way he folded his arms across his chest just before he knocked you into the middle of next week. He was a jarhead and he did not brook any nonsense. He could pick a drunk up over his head and throw him completely over a police car, lights and all.

Before describing my experiences with this officer I need to inform the gentle reader of the nature of 59 Territory. The residents of 59 Territory were called 59er's or just 9er's to those of us who worked it. Actually anyone who displayed the charateristics discussed below were awarded that appellation. As previously mentioned, 59 was in transition from a sewer to a cesspool. You might also describe it as a rancid cheese burger transiting from the sigmoid colon to the rectum. It had every kind of crazed, drunken, incest-spawned, whacko supremo you could think of and a few more previously unknown varieties that you swear God in his Infinite Wisdom had placed on His Good Green Earth just to piss you off.

59 was an equal opportunity cesspool. Every color, race and ethnic consideration was represented here, usually on the front porch drinking cheap beer or collapsed in an alley reeking of cheap wine and piss.

Many 9er's were easily identified by public intoxication, public urination, foul public exclamation, public perturbation and public masturbation. During the summer everything took place in the street because their homes were hot, festering, filthy hellholes. In the winter there was basically no difference because most of these people were intellectually defeated by the amazing new "turn me down" technology of wall thermostats.

Aside from the high crime rate, this was an area that needed intensive policing services because 9er's are incapable of managing their affairs without the lubrication afforded by copius amounts of alcohol, screaming and violence. Calls for the police went out to break up disturbances that started over discussions on how to hold a dog leash. Ambulances were summoned and police cars dispatched with emergency lights blazing and sirens blaring on a "Baby Stopped Breathing" call that turned out to be some 9er's pet hamster (after all, it was their "Baby").

A six year old rapes his four year old cousin at a drunken orgy wedding reception held on Gifford St. A 9er gets his penis caught in a punch press (YES - how it got there is a mystery but it was truly a blessing since he was rendered incapable of transmitting his DNA). He gets a few grand from the insurance settlement and remodels the apartment he rents on Merriman Ave. so he can move the toilet into his kitchen. Right next to the sink.

The volume of calls is mind numbing. Noise complaints are generated by someone playing loud music because he says his pets like it. The pets are cockroaches. Thousands of them. The walls literally move when you turn the lights on.

My first homicide is in June of 1975. I have less than six months street experience. A nine year old boy has been reported missing and we get a tip that he was last seen with a George Townsend who lies near the boy's house in the 500 block of Gifford St. I leave the parents' house and drive down the block and meet another cop so we can interview Mr. Townsend . We have also received information that Townsend is "not all there" and a little too "friendly" with the neighborhood boys, a possible child molester.

At Townsend's lower flat no one responds to our knocking, pounding and shouting but the front door is unlocked. We enter looking for the boy. Every room in the apartment is filled with cardboard boxes almost to the ceiling. Electric extension cords cascade from outlets screwed into what should have been the ceiling lights and wind their way through the premises. We find Townsend unconscious on a mattress in the kitchen. There is clothing, utencils, newspapers and all manner of crap covering the floors, counters and sink but no sign of the boy.

I try to rouse Townsend but he does not respond. Empty med bottles near the bed indicate that he may have overdosed so we call an ambulance. To make entry easier for the ambulance crew, we move the piles of dirty blankets and clothing near the foot of the mattress. There we find the boy's dead body. I was standing on the kid's chest just moments prior.

This beat is populated by people who would have died in their twenties a few generations ago but are kept alive by a welfare system that rewards and maintains the bizarre, the lazy and the corrupt.

A State mental health system that advocates the "mainstreaming" of psychotics and mentally deficient victims-to-be simply introduces another variety of fish into an already polluted pond.

Two alcohol outreach programs (the Rescue Mission and Unity Kitchens) keep the winos alive through the winter. We used to get calls for them when the snow melted in March and the smell of their rotting bodies under stacks of cardboard would alert passers by. Now they provide a source of amusement for us as we watch them pound each other senseless vying for the few available beds each night.

Welcome to 59, the Land of Dim.

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