Black Market Street: Police Reports Show Cat-and-Mouse Game

Josh Edelson
In last week's feature story, "Black Market Street," Tenderloin station police captain Joe Garrity noted, in an e-mail to a local resident, that officers had made at least 15 recent arrests around the corner of Market and Jones streets.

A look at some of the police reports behind those arrests shows a slice of how the SFPD is attempting to combat the area's drug dealing. "The area of Market and Jones Street," one report stated, "is well known for its high level of marijuana sales at all times of the day and night."

See Also: Black Market Street: Inside a Thriving Open-Air Drug Business

On August 15, a little before 8 p.m., one officer surveilled the Market and Jones corner "in a position of concealment." He observed a suspected sale, and described the seller and buyer to three plainclothes officers. Those three officers followed the buyer up Jones Street, stopped him, and told him they saw the transaction, according to the report.

"Come on man, I just got out of jail," the buyer allegedly told the officers, before handing over a Newport cigarette box that contained the purchase. After the buyer's warrant check came up clean, the officers "admonished" him and he "was released fro the scene pending further review from the District Attorney's Office and the Narcotics Division."

(DA George Gascón has said that he agrees with the local policy ranking minor marijuana offenses as law enforcement's "lowest priority.")

The plain clothes officers then returned to the corner and arrested the suspected seller. From a search, an officer "seized a blue container from [the suspect's] left pajama pants which he wore underneath his jeans." Inside the container, the officers found 1.3 grams of weed and a pill they suspected was MDMA. A records check showed that the suspected seller was on parole.

Even when officers don't see a transaction, they use other means to clear a corner. At 12:41 a.m. on July 16, two officers in a police cruiser were traveling down Jones Street. They stopped mid-block to watch the corner. Soon, according to the report, they "observed [a woman] walk from the NE corner to the SE corner of Jones and McAllister Sts, against a red signal."

That crossing is not part of a four-way intersection. It is less than 20 yards through a one-way intersection. At 12:41 a.m. on most nights, the area is nearly empty save for a few people hanging out on the corner of Market and Jones.

The officers ran a records check and discovered that the 20-year-old woman was on misdemeanor probation, "with a stay-away order from Jones and McAllister Sts." She was arrested.

Stay-away orders can be especially useful for law enforcement given veteran dealers' ability to evade drug charges. Around 5 p.m. on July 24, two officers conducted a parole sweep of the corner. They detained two men who had been sitting in a nearby parked car. Both admitted that they were on probation, the report stated. A computer check showed that one of the men had an outstanding traffic warrant and the other "had a stay-away order for 150 yards from the intersection of Jones St. and McAllister St."

The officers found weed in each of the suspects' pockets. But the men did not face charges for that. "Both had medical cannabis cards."

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