Crackdown

After years of neglect, a Maryvale neighborhood and the Phoenix police evict the West Side City Crips

(Watson's attorney did not return repeated calls for comment.)
David Roland was the one Crip who didn't trust Officer Scott.
"He's a rat," Roland says. "The other guys, they thought he was cool. He wasn't cool."

With a laugh and a smile, he recounts trying to get the other dealers to be more careful. "I knew the whole time, he doesn't want to get you for weed," Roland says. "He wants to get you for crack so he can send you to prison. I told them. I told them all. They called him Officer Friendly. I just said, he ain't friendly. He's a snake."

Masino slowly won the trust of the Woodmar residents as well.
Residents were scared to talk. They knew there would be repercussions from the Crips. One man was beaten and dragged out in front of his neighbors for calling the police to complain about the noise from a gang member's stereo. Other witnesses to crimes just disappeared or refused to talk.

Then the Crips cut Linda Tye's phone lines because of her repeated calls to the police.

Masino told the gangsters, in front of Tye: "If anything happens to Miss Linda over there, I'm going to have this place under so many cops you'll think it was martial law."

He also got her a cell phone that dialed 911. The Crips didn't bother her again. It wasn't out of the goodness of their hearts, Masino believes. They just didn't want anything interrupting their business.

Even though he was well-liked by the gang-bangers, Masino still faced the threats. West Side City tolerated his presence, but the dealers wouldn't miss a chance to let him know who was boss.

"There would be times when I was surrounded by 15 or 20 guys, and they'd start saying, 'Hey, let's jump Officer Scott.' Fifteen or 20 guys and just me," Masino says.

At other times, Masino would find the laser sight from a gun pointed at his chest. "Just their way of trying to intimidate us," he says.

Occasionally, the intimidation went all the way up to gunfire.
Masino also worked at Woodmar on his nights off. He'd hand-picked a group of cops to work off-duty at the townhomes--"guys who wouldn't just put in their time and leave," he says. One of those was Tad Bowers, Masino's partner, a young guy with the vault-door build of a longtime gym rat.

While working off-duty last December, they had to arrest a suspect on a warrant. "Fifteen members were standing there while we were wrestling with this guy," Masino says, "and then we heard two gunshots. We couldn't even tell who fired them. I think they were just trying to get us to let him go."

Bowers adds, "They were all shouting, 'Take it easy on my cuz, man, take it easy on my cuz.' Then there was this POP-POP sound. We called 907 [Officer Needs Assistance]. Then all of these [squad] cars pull up, we hear sirens, we hear shotguns racking . . . we had officers everywhere."

The closest Masino came to a gunfight was when he approached a suspect in a dark alley, behind the Pine Ridge Apartments.

"He had a gun, and I had to draw down on him," Masino says. "I was alone, no back-up, and if he'd seen me just a second earlier, he would've been able to get the drop on me. I was lucky."

Based on Masino's information, the police prepared search warrants and fell on Woodmar like a bomb on February 5.

The weather was bad, Linda Tye remembers. "That rainy day," she says. "I've never seen it so bad, and I watch Cops every day. I had one foot out the door with my gandson, and I saw all these cops, and I said, 'Oh, Lord, it's a raid.' All of them were in that gear, the guns, the hoods, so you can't even see them except for their eyes."

The police locked down the entire area. Drug and gang officers worked with tactical officers to overwhelm the Crips.

Patti Hussey was on hand to watch the end of a long nightmare.
"There were just a phenomenal amount of people. There were copters, police cars, police officers everywhere. Oh, it was great," she says gleefully.

David Roland's memories of the bust aren't so fond.
Roland was cautious about his dealing. He only worked with a select group of customers who had his pager number. He wouldn't often sell to strangers.

Roland admits he screwed up. He can remember the exact sale to the undercover officer. The cop wasn't one of his regulars, "but this other guy vouched for him, so I thought that guy was cool. Made me mad."

Altogether, the police arrested 29 people and served half a dozen search warrants. Because of the weather, several members of West Side City weren't around, and had to be arrested at other locations.

Eight people have been charged so far. Roland, who was charged with possession of a narcotic, pleaded to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 89 days in jail (time served) and four years' probation. Two others have also copped pleas, but because of a computer switchover, the County Attorney's Office could not provide data on the resolution of those cases.

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