Officers Remember '80s, Early '90s As Dark Years

Officers Remember '80s, Early '90s As Dark Years
Posted by FoM on December 17, 1999 at 10:42:00 PT
By Kathy Sanders, Star-Telegram Staff Writer 
Source: Star-Telegram 
When crack and ruthless street gangs converged on Fort Worth, senseless death came along, heralding the deadliest era in the city's history. As in big cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas and Miami, Fort Worth endured climbing homicide rates and increased drug trafficking in the 1980s and early 1990s.
"When you look back on the century, the '80s were the most violent times," said Weatherford Police Chief Jerry Blaisdell, who commanded Fort Worth's narcotics unit for much of the decade. "Property crimes and homicides had gone through the roof."The number of homicides in Fort Worth peaked in 1986 with 202, an all-time high. That earned Fort Worth the distinction as the deadliest city in the nation, based on the number of people killed per 100,000 population, according to federal officials.Soaring homicides showed only a glimpse of the other crimes that accompanied drugs and the street gangs that battled for a share of the market."You look behind the number of assaults, and you see how, by the luck of the draw, many people didn't die from a shooting," Blaisdell said.Narcotics officers said violence seemed to move in overnight in the mid-1980s with Cuban Mariel boatlift criminals surfacing in Fort Worth with blazing guns and deadly aim."The Marielitos came in and took over the [powder] cocaine business in Fort Worth. They were very well-armed. They came in selling a better quality of drug at a better rate," Blaisdell said. "They took over the market virtually overnight."A Fort Worth police spokesman, Lt. Ric Clark, who had three stints on narcotics duty, said, however, that the Cuban Mariel faction was a flash in the pan."They made a splash instantly, then faded in less than a year," he said. "I'm not sure why they started fading out. The violence associated with the Cubans was incredible. They'd send you out and tell you to bring back $300. If you came back with $299.95, they'd kill you. These guys didn't shoot and run; they'd shoot you, stand there, then walk away."But as the Cuban drug influence waned, Fort Worth police began seeing so-called Jamaican posse factions, a violent and more organized drug operation, officers said.What Jamaicans brought was the infamous drug houses -- not flophouses known to generations before where addicts did their business, but boarded- up houses with no water, electricity or furniture.Doors were fortified with 2- by-4s and nails. Windows were boarded up, and there was a slot in the door where drugs and money were traded anonymously. This prevented police from making many "buy-and- bust" drug purchases because no one could identify who was handing over the heroin or cocaine or marijuana, Clark said.Powder cocaine was the drug of choice, prompting a high- dollar return for those who dealt it. At the same time, North Texas was hitting an all- time high in the number of methamphetamine labs, drawing the distinction as the nation's "speed" capital, Blaisdell said.Soon thereafter came crack, a rocklike form of cocaine with an intense high and a low price. That further fueled the gangs, who battled over territory and ultimate profits from the drug, which was first seen here in 1988, police said.As the drug scourge grew in Fort Worth, it ate away a long- standing code of unspoken ethics among "local" drug lords, who wouldn't kill someone who was with their family or at a church, or shoot blindly into crowds.The new breed of drug dealers and street gangs emulated the highly publicized gangs of Los Angeles, who had no such canon of ethics, drug officers said.That led to a rash of "mushroom" killings -- a reference to children killed by stray bullets because they popped up out of nowhere -- mistaken-identity killings and random attacks, Clark said.Officer Kathy Thompson, a former narcotics unit officer and now a nationally recognized D.A.R.E. officer, recalled the department's naivete about the gangs' workings when police first noticed the appearance of the Los Angeles gangs locally."We were arresting them on little [drug] buys, and we knew they had the money to get out of jail. But they were staying in jail," she said. "We couldn't figure it out. We got this one guy who was wanted for murder in Los Angeles, and when we talked to LAPD, we asked them why these guys were staying in jail."The reaction was swift and urgent. "They said: `Get them out of there now! Get them out!' What they were doing is going in jail and then staying to recruit new members," Thompson said.So a large community of "gangsters" emerged.Many of the new members had no idea what they were getting into, Blaisdell said.Kathy Sanders, (817) 390-7705Send comments to ksanders Published: December 16, 1999 1999 Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on December 17, 1999 at 18:29:36 PT
Typical. So typical.
It's been known for years that prisons have been nothing but the criminal doppelgangers of military recruitment centers. And these cops are amazed that this is happening? Since the emphasis has rarely ever been on 'reform', but more punishment, where gang membership and all that it entails is often the only means of surviving the experience, to expect otherwise can only be described as Pollyanna-ish naivete unbecoming of adults.And yet an entire government (the US) pretends very hard that the opposite is true. How stupid can you get?
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