Crackdown

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

"We'd talk crazy shit to them all the time, harass them, call them pigs, po-po [police], motherfucker, all that shit," he says, laughing. "Some of them, they just wouldn't say anything. Some of them would look scared. . . . They'd be going around asking, 'What's your name?' Trying to book us when we hadn't done anything. 'What's your name?' Fuck you, what's your name?"

The Crips had no fear of the police, Roland boasts, because they had the guns and the numbers.

"They was just another gang to us, basically. . . . They had guns, well, we had guns, too," Roland says. "Especially when there was 50 of us and two of them. What were they going to do? Two of them, two guns, and between us we'd have 15 or 20. They can't shoot all of us."

The gang members would even pull their guns and point them at the police after the officers turned their backs, Roland says.

"They was scared, basically. They didn't do anything," he says.
And if there was a raid, the Crips would usually be able to take off. "The way the place was set up, we could always see the cops coming. I ain't going to say we were organized, but we knew what we were doing."

The worst areas of Woodmar were around Crack Walk, toward the back of the property. At the lowest point, about 45 units were vacant. About 20 of those had been abandoned by the owners.

When Hussey came in as manager, the townhomes' board of directors was fractured and bickering over what to do. Some owners of the property were sick and tired of watching their investment turn into a slum.

Paul and Joyce Hamby were two of those owners. They nicknamed Woodmar the War Zone.

The Hambys moved to Phoenix from Irving, Texas, in 1982. Paul switched from contracting to real estate, and they began selling and renting property in the city. They got tangled up in Woodmar in 1993, when Paul began managing a condo for an owner in Montana. "People just wanted out," Paul says, and he picked up their property cheap. Pretty soon, he and his wife owned five units in Woodmar.

They bought into more trouble than they realized. The Crips didn't like outsiders on their turf.

Word got back to Hamby from his tenants: Stay off the property. When Hamby began doing maintenance work on his investments, he started to get threats. Hamby, a minister on the weekends at Black Canyon City First Assembly of God, was told that the "preacher man" should stay clear of Woodmar.

The nickname stuck. One day, a group of kids told him, "Preacher man, preacher man, someone's messing with your van."

Hamby--who is 64--took off running after the guy. He didn't catch him, but he didn't get shot, either.

The Hambys also put themselves in the crosshairs by swearing out trespassing warrants against gang members at Maryvale Justice Court. This gave the police the power to arrest any of the bangers found on the property.

Hamby even tried to stop the traffic through Crack Alley. He put up four different gates to block the exit. The gang-bangers tore them down by ramming stolen cars into them. Once while he was installing the second or third gate, a crackhead walked up to him, he says. "I don't know why you keep coming over here," the addict told Hamby. "We're just going to tear it down tonight."

Joyce believes respect for the clergy kept her husband from getting hurt. Hamby thinks it was the three-iron he carried with him while on the grounds. "Early on, I let them know I wasn't afraid of them," Hamby says.

Joyce's theory is probably closer to the truth. At any rate, someone must have been looking out for Hamby, because a golf club is no match for an automatic weapon.

The Crips didn't threaten just Hamby. They told the Hambys' maintenance workers to stay out. The Salt River Project's utilities workers were afraid to go into Woodmar, Hussey says. City of Phoenix housing inspectors were afraid to go into Woodmar, officials at the housing department say. Even armed guards were afraid to go into the complex.

About two years ago, Hussey recalls, the manager of the private security firm Hussey had hired to patrol called her to his office. He said, "We have a problem," she recalls, and he slid the clip of an automatic handgun, loaded with hollowpoint bullets, across the desk to her. He'd gotten it at Woodmar. While patrolling the grounds, he'd seen a gang-banger firing a pistol in the air. When the kid took off running, he jammed the gun into his pocket, and he must have hit the clip release, the manager said. We quit, he told Hussey.

"We can't handle this," he said.

When Officer Scott Masino started patrolling Woodmar, he had to face the fact that many residents found the real cops to be as little help as the rent-a-cops.

In January 1998, Hussey hired Sheriff Joe Arpaio's citizen posse and some of his deputies to work security at Woodmar.

The gang members threw rocks at posse members and their horses and chased other deputies off the grounds.

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