Each month, the Advocate visits with Sgt. Jim Little, Sr. Cpl. Rick Janich and Officers T.X. “Tri” Ngo and West Stout of the East Dallas Storefront police station, 1327 N. Peak Street (670-5514). The Storefront is best-known for its bicycle patrol officers, who pedal the streets of East Dallas weekdays. The City of Dallas funds the Storefront, but numerous volunteers and organizations provide both hours and funds to develop special programs aimed at building better relations among police officers and neighborhoods.

Advocate: You just completed a big, three-week, anti-crime program in the area, didn’t you?

Jim: It was an East Dallas zero-tolerance task force in the area.

Rick: This really was a response to concerns voiced by the neighborhoods. The area included Gaston to R.L. Thornton to Haskell to Beacon.

Jim: Zero-tolerance means that any law violated was enforced. No warnings, no second chances, period.

Rick: It was mainly targeted at the area known primarily for crack cocaine trafficking. We dealt with people going into and coming out of places. So we stopped people coming out for trespassing and checked them for outstanding warrants.

Wes: The program was targeted at the users. Part of the chief’s plan is to reduce the number of users, and help eliminate the dealers.

Rick: I bet overall, over the three-week period, we made a couple hundred arrests for everything from parole violations to public intoxication.

Advocate: How, exactly, did you handle the operation? Did you just hang out near crack houses and nab people as they walked out?

Rick: As soon as they leave the area, we’d ride up to them on our bikes and stop them.

Jim: You have to let them get clear of the area, or we’d tip our hand.

Advocate: Were most of those arrested from East Dallas?

Rick: It seemed like most were from outside the City of Dallas.

Tri: The people who live in the area, after awhile they knew what we were doing, so they stopped coming.

Rick: Yeah, but we had one girl who we arrested, took her down to jail, and two days later, there she was back again at the same place doing the same thing. She was telling Tri that she had swallowed her heroin so that we couldn’t charge her with possession.

Advocate: Why would someone make a big production out of telling a police officer about something illegal like that?

Jim: You’ve got to realize, these aren’t your brightest people here.

Tri: Besides, they know we can’t do anything about it. If we don’t catch them with the drugs, or see them throw them down, we can’t charge them.

Advocate: How about the prostitution operation? What happened there?

Rick: It was centered around Zaragoza Elementary School, near a park there. We had our decoys (police officers dresses as prostitutes), two of them, and we rotated them around so one was on the corner all of the time until lunch time. Then, it got so busy that we had to put both of them out.

This operation was targeted at the solicitors, who are just as much of a nuisance as the prostitutes themselves. We arrested 14 guys the first day, and they ranged from an air-conditioner repairman to a seminary student. We even got a doctor on another day.

Tri: We even had a vice officer who was going to arrest our decoy; he just happened by and didn’t know anything about the sting, so he was just doing his job.

Advocate: How does the solicitation process work? I mean, what does the decoy actually do?

Wes: As soon as the “offer” is made, the decoy would wave the car to another location to meet the “john” there. And then another police unit would make the arrest.

Advocate: Do you use a “wire” to monitor the conversation like they do on TV?

Wes: No, the tapes are real difficult, because there is all of this outside noise on them. A defense attorney just has to point out one place on the tape that’s unclear, and the whole thing is gone.

Advocate: If you don’t tape the “offer”, then isn’t it just the word of a guy in his car against the decoy’s? What if the guy claims he was just asking for directions?

Jim: That’s what the courts are for – they can all have their day in court.

Rick: Most of them don’t go to court anyway. They know they’re guilty and they’re embarrassed, so they usually pay the bond (usually about $200) to get out of jail, and that’s the end of the deal.

Advocate: What if they don’t show up for their court date?

Jim: Then the bond becomes a fine and that’s it. Of course, they still have to pay the fee for towing and impounding their car.

Advocate: What do these guys say when you catch them? I mean, how is a seminary student going to come up with an excuse?

Rick: What you heard most was: How am I going to explain this? Most of the guys were married, working guys. A few were deviants – a couple just drove up to the decoy and exposed themselves. They didn’t even open the window and say anything; I mean, those guys are sick.

But most are just looking for something to do on their lunch hour. One guy had about $2,000 cash on him. They drive nice cars. Wear starched white shirts.

We had people who would literally wait nearly an hour or more just to talk with the girls. You could see them lined up, waiting for their turn.

Advocate: Now, you were down there for three weeks and arrested all of these people. If we went down there to that same corner right now, would we find prostitutes and solicitations going on?

Rick: No problem. Some of those people just get used to going there, so I’m sure they’re going back.

Advocate: So what has really been accomplished?

Rick: Well, those 14 people we arrested the first day will tell all their friends – they won’t do it again, at least not in that area. We just can’t worry about all of that. We can only worry about all of that. We can only worry about what happens that day. And the next day, we do it all over again.

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