Crackdown

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

In October of last year, Masino went into Woodmar alone.

Linda Tye had already seen too much brutality when she moved to Woodmar three years ago.

Tye, a mother and grandmother, moved from Avondale to care for her sister's children after her sister died in a gang drive-by in south Phoenix. "She had a last chance to straighten up, and God took her because she wasn't going to use that chance," Tye recalls. "She was so deep into the drugs, she was selling food stamps to buy drugs."

Tye's first indication that something was different at her new home came when her sister's kids told her not to turn on the porch light, Tye recalls. "They said, 'The men don't want [any] lights because that's the Crack Walk,'" she recalls.

"I was so scared. You couldn't walk down the sidewalks because of all the people standing around selling drugs," Tye remembers, sitting on a chair outside her unit. A small child watches her through the wrought iron of the screen door. "Every time you'd go by, it'd be, 'Whatcha need? You need? Whatcha got?'"

Tye soon learned the rules of survival at Woodmar.
Kids weren't allowed outside. Families stayed indoors, with the blinds drawn and the doors locked. People kept their heads down and their mouths shut.

The gang members weren't shy about keeping the residents informed when they needed to shoot down a rival dealer. "They'd tell you when they was about to start shooting," Tye says. "They'd come by and say, 'Get your kids in the house.'"

Woodmar was the Crips' place of business more than their home. Most of the dealers did not live there--they commuted to work like a lawyer to a downtown firm.

"They came in cabs, the dealers, just like they were coming to work. They'd drive up in nice suits," Tye says.

Tye knew them all by their street names: Melly Mel, Big D, Dookie, 10th Avenue, Red Dog.

She could handle the guys who just smoked weed, she remarks. What she couldn't stomach were the guys who smoked crack and sherm--cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid. "The kids would always pick the vials up off the ground," Tye says.

Linda Tye saw the butchery from her front door. She witnessed two shootings in 1998--one fatal.

"Last summer was the worst," she says, shaking her head sadly. "They really ran the place then."

The first shooting victim was a dealer, the leading occupation in Woodmar.
As night began to fall one evening last summer, Tye's daughter came in the house. "Mama, [someone] got shot," she said.

Tye looked out her front door and saw the familiar scattering of police and paramedics, milling around the door of a nearby unit. Then she saw the body, not 30 feet from her condo.

The dealer was lying on his back, his feet propped against the wall. "It was like he just had his feet up, so he could take a nap," Tye says. "I stayed out there until 2 or 3 in the morning, watching the paramedics take him away."

The second time, Tye remembers the blood. That was when "Lil' Larry"--Larry McBeth, a competitor of the Crips--pushed his luck a little too far.

At the center of Crack Walk was what the cops called the Million-Dollar Spot. That's where McBeth got shot.

McBeth was allowed to operate inside Woodmar even though he wasn't in the gang. In fact, he was a member of the Bloods, the Crips' longtime rivals. But he had family on the West Side, and that was close enough.

For a while, anyway. In a dispute with West Side City last August, McBeth was shot seven times with a semiautomatic handgun.

McBeth told the police who investigated that his name was Larry Jones, and that he'd been shot during a craps game for no apparent reason. The police arrested a West Side City member identified by witnesses at the scene.

Tye heard the shots, but wouldn't look outside until after it was over.
"[H]e got shot right under my stairwell," Tye recalls. "I heard shots, and I wasn't going to come out. I heard shots all the time. But then I looked around outside, and I saw his shoes and his pager on the ground, and a trail of blood."

She followed the trail to the door of Larry's apartment, which is where the paramedics found him. They took him to the hospital.

"So much blood," Tye says.
McBeth left the hospital before the police could pick him up, Lieutenant Gentis recalls. Gentis adds that they found him just a few days later, wearing a bulletproof vest over his bandages, carrying a pistol and 50 rocks of crack cocaine.

(McBeth is now in prison, serving a five-year sentence for drug sales.)
Linda Lloyd is one of the few Woodmar residents who's been around longer than Linda Tye. A disabled full-time mom, she's been at Woodmar for seven years. When she came back to Phoenix from Oakland, she thought she was leaving the gang wars behind.

She didn't. Lloyd's unit is directly across the common area from Crack Walk. Her rental turned out to be on the front row for the Crips' activity.

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