By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Whoa, that’s a lotta hip-hop star power. And what about you, KP? Do you hang out on ‘Saint Julian Street?’” I ask.
“Nah, not at all,” he says. “You couldn’t pay me to go down there. Cops call us gangsters, man. We just make music. The [song] everybody’s talking about — sell my weed, sell my rocks or whatever — you know, everybody like the song. But basically at the end of the song it saying, you can sell baseball cards, be a basketball player, lawyer, doctor, however you getting it ... that’s what it is, man. You know what I’m saying?”
“One Time” in the Box
Veteran narcotics detective Burt Feldtz knows San Julian Street like the back of his hand. He’s been on the job down here since 1990. Feldtz looks like an undercover cop. He wears undercover-cop jeans and an undercover-cop T-shirt and has undercover-cop hair. A stoic presence, the detective looks like a young Doug McClure. Not The Virginian young Doug McClure, more of a Cannonball Run II Doug McClure... without the paunch.
I’m riding shotgun with Feldtz, heading north on San Pedro toward Fifth Street in an unmarked squad car doing chase for the narcotics detail on a weekday afternoon. This is the street-level counterpart to Chris Luna and Rick Kellogg, the super dope cops with their eyes in the sky.
“If we didn’t go out and arrest the narcotic sellers and the buyers, the downtown area would be a total mess,” Feldtz says. “Downtown L.A. has always been like a free zone. We don’t have drive-by shootings where one gang is retaliating against a different gang. It’s kinda like a free zone where any gangster from any clique anywhere in the city of L.A. can come down here and sell narcotics and not really have to worry about someone doing a drive-by on them.
“Obviously you have a lot of people who are using down here. It’s just like feeding the ducks at the park. You know what the ducks want. They want a piece of bread. Same thing here. They want rock cocaine.”
Feldtz has a sort of detached cynicism that, coupled with his age, plus time in the box, imbues him with a clearer perspective than most.
“You’d be surprised... people who are vice presidents of companies, teachers, writers, actors, entertainers, everybody. Showing up in nice cars to buy narcotics. I think the homeless get a lot of the blame. It’s Joe Schmo citizen, too. It’s soccer mom. It’s everybody that’s coming to buy dope. It’s the whole society that’s coming down to buy dope. It’s not only the homeless.”
A disheveled black man rides close to the car on his bike and taunts us. “I know what time it is,” he says.
“‘One time’ means police,” Feldtz says. “That’s what they call us, ‘one time.’ A lot of times we can be actually hands-on arresting somebody, and less than 50 feet away from us they’re still making a transaction or smoking rock cocaine with us right there. They really get into their thing and they ignore everything else that’s going on.”
The radio squawks the details of a sale around the corner on Crocker Street. Feldtz puts the pedal down with the calm of a seasoned veteran.
“As soon as they say they are able to recover the dope, then we go out and get the dealer,” he tells me. “We’re trying to keep the narcotics to a steady roar. We see it quite a bit where 14- and 15-year-olds are selling narcotics down here. South L.A. gang members will use some of the younger people, because how the system works is we wind up releasing them to their parent.”
Radio squawks again. “Two males black, blue shirt, right front pocket. North side from Towne and Fifth Street. Red checkered shirt, blue jeans. The other one's got a blue T-shirt with a white T-shirt underneath and blue jeans. Both male black.”
We join two squad cars as they pull up on the sellers. Two clean-scrubbed, young black men are under arrest in front of the Salvation Army on Fifth Street and Stanford Avenue. Feet spread, hands on the wall waiting to be cuffed. Feldtz shows me the prize. A big bag of crack and a big bag of cash.
A block away two more squad cars pull up on the buyer. Another black man. A little older.
“It’s not like TV,” Feldtz says. “We don’t get excited. It doesn’t have to be all hostile. It’s a way of doing business out here. For the most part we’ve learned to treat ’em with respect. There’s no reason to demean them.”
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