Crackdown

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

After a month of this, the posse members and the deputies quit. On February 5, Hussey says she got a fax from the sheriff's office that said the posse wouldn't be riding in to save Woodmar.

Sheriff's spokesman Dave Trombi maintains that the sheriff's patrols ended because the condo association cut their hours--a claim Hussey laughs at.

"We begged them to stay," she says.
Woodmar residents and owners weren't happy with the Phoenix police, either.
To Linda Tye and Linda Lloyd, it seemed the police didn't want to do anything.

Until last year, police rarely came into the complex, and then they wouldn't spend much time.

Tye was calling Crime Stoppers constantly about the dealers. "They should know my name by now," she jokes. "I got tired of the gunshots, I got tired of them dealing dope."

But nothing happened.
"[The dealers] would just look at me, after they'd talk to the police," Tye says. "They'd look at me like nothing could touch them. They just couldn't be touched.

"[The police] would come in and walk around, and then the drug dealers would just come back."

The Crips would chase off the police, just like they did the posse members. If a cruiser came into the complex, gang members would surround it. More often than not, the patrolmen would hit reverse and leave the area.

The owners of Woodmar were also frustrated in their attempts to get the police's attention.

The Hambys burned up the phone lines to the mayor, the chief of police and even the governor. At one community meeting last year, Joyce Hamby recalls, a cop from the Maryvale precinct offered to give out his number for anyone to call--then added, "Well, maybe I better wait until Joyce leaves the room."

Last year, Paul Hamby saw three patrol cars sitting in the parking lot of a nearby day-care center while he was at Woodmar. He then heard a barrage of gunfire. Not one of the police officers even got out of their cars, he says.

Part of the problem was the fractured ownership of Woodmar itself. The police seemed to find little reason to care about the place if the owners didn't.

"Everyone was pointing fingers," Ken Broyles, the president of the homeowners association at Woodmar, says. "Everyone was blaming everyone else, instead of taking responsibility for themselves. We'd blame the police, they'd come back at us, well, why don't you take better care of the place? We'd go round and round."

Broyles started writing letters. In a 1997 letter, Broyles says that an officer who responded to a tenant's complaint of a break-in asked her why she lived at Woodmar.

Broyles wrote, "[The police] said [they] clean up Woodmar IV, but it doesn't last. We feel the reason it doesn't last, the police want to keep the gangs at Woodmar IV so they know where they are. . . . We are paying our taxes and your wages, but you don't want to help."

He got a letter back from then-chief Dennis Garrett, which, in the time-honored tradition of bureaucracy, said nothing: "The purpose of this letter is to serve as notice and to provide you with knowledge of the criminal activity that is taking place on and around your property. . . . [I]t is to your advantage to come to the board meetings and become actively involved in the future of Woodmar IV townhomes."

Patti Hussey recalls one angry conversation with the former Maryvale precinct commander. He'd told her that some of his officers didn't want to go into Woodmar.

"I told him, 'You have officers that are scared to go in there? Shouldn't that be a red flag?'" she says. "I said, 'I know you have redneck officers on the force; this would be like bonus time for them. Maybe we should call out the National Guard.'

"He said, 'You have a bad attitude.'"
Maryvale Precinct Commander Manny Davila says the police were never scared to enter Woodmar, but he can understand why some people there might say that.

"People get frustrated when their problems aren't being solved, and part of their frustration involves lashing out at the police," he says. "I've been on the force 26 years now, and it's just part of the flak you have to deal with as an officer."

Davila agrees that Woodmar "had been a sore spot for years," but says the owners and residents have to take some responsibility for the conditions there.

"There were numerous reasons why we couldn't work there effectively. Part of the reason was the owners themselves were not unified in their efforts," Davila says.

Still, before Gentis sent Masino into Woodmar, there were a lot of people ready to give up hope.

Scott Masino is a second-generation Phoenix cop. His father was a detective for 20 years; he's wanted to be a cop since he was 5 years old. Masino says his father, in all that time on the force, was never shot at, was never involved in a shooting. In Masino's first nine months on the force, he'd already pulled his gun three times.

"That was when I had to decide, 'Do I really want to do this for 20 more years?'" he says.

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