The Criminal: RadioShack nightmare, and narcotic fragments

I need to start this special edition of The Criminal with a disclaimer and an excuse. The first column (June 2011) featured raw, unreported Austin chaos: teenagers trying to kill themselves, cops busting poor East Austin Hispanics, punks lying unconscious and face-down in the middle of the street during Chaos in Tejas, and little bits and pieces from Austin’s undercover narcotics officers.

After that, RadioShack fucked me. Very shortly after the publication of Issue 1, I turned my scanner on and realized that it didn’t work anymore. The first thing I did was take it to “my local RadioShack” for repairs. It was still under warranty. But since I’d bought it online and only picked it up there, I needed to get some shit called a “Return Authorization Number” before they’d touch it. I picked up my phone, navigated the maze of clueless East Indians, and got my code. Then I brought it in and they gave me a choice: return or repair? Stupidly, I chose repair. They took my scanner and assured me it would only take two weeks to fix. They tried to tell me that the normal procedure involved no paperwork, and that I should take their word for it that my scanner would return. I was a sucker to not take a cash-return, but not dumb enough to leave without any paper trail.

And "thank God” I did. After two months and no scanner, I called the manager of the Oltorf RadioShack, who assured me the scanner would arrive in a week and a half. I waited for the call, and it didn’t come after two weeks. I called again. The same manager “looked it up” on his computer and gave me some excuse about extreme temperatures at the Dallas warehouse and that it would come in two weeks. This process repeated itself several times until two more months passed. Eventually, at the crescendo of a legendary weekend of days/nights of drinking with friends from out of town, I stayed up until 10 a.m. drinking, drove to RadioShack, and argued the facts out of the store manager. He told me he didn’t know where the hell my scanner was, if it even got shipped out for repairs, and unless he personally drove out to Dallas/Ft. Worth, I wasn’t getting it back. Our discussion disintegrated with: “I’m going to have to take a step back, sir. I’m feeling uncomfortable.”

At that point, I realized this dude wasn’t giving me my police scanner back. Luckily, Lisa, our invaluable Managing Editor and Advertising Director, called corporate and yelled at them until they called me one day and politely informed me that my scanner was finally finished with repairs. This was magically ten minutes after she got off the phone with the district manager.

I went in, got my brand new police scanner and even got the satisfaction of demanding that the store manager take a brand new power supply out of one of the boxes on the shelf and give it to me. He did and I thanked him and left.

The following is the result of extremely poor reception and a shortage of time to scan police airwaves in. Next month will be more exciting … I promise.

Nov 10, 3:30 PM

North Lamar

Police picked up a guy who was “eating, drinking a beer, and speeding through a school zone.”

Nov 11, 11:30 PM

East Austin

Undercover narcotics officers followed a black male with gold-rimmed glasses (their main “target”) and “a group of eight transients” around east Austin. They believed they saw him do multiple crack deals, rip another “transient” off, and other related crimes. They followed him and various people for several hours. Eventually, they decided they were going to “get him [the gold rimmed guy] no matter what.”

At 12:30 AM, I heard officers following a related group. The undercover officer called a plain-clothed officer in to drive by with sirens/lights blaring, "just to break 'em up and get 'em out of here for a little bit. It's kind of fun to watch, anyway."

Nov 12, 4:05 PM

City Hall

Police responded to a fight at City Hall. Some guy got punched in the face and, after initially refusing EMS, he eventually decided that wanted an ambulance because “his nose won't stop bleeding.”

4:30 PM

Southeast Austin

Police are called to respond to a family dispute. Dispatcher: "Their 13 year old daughter is hitting and fighting everyone. They're just trying to restrain her."

Nov 15, 7:00 PM

Northeast Austin

Undercover police followed a suspect, who they believed to be carrying or involved in drugs. They followed the car to a house where the driver picked up some more people. From there, police followed the car to a convenience store. The suspects went inside the store and undercover officers considered grabbing them right then and there. They decided to wait until everyone got back into the car.

Eventually, the car pulled out of the parking lot and undercover police followed. In a matter of seconds, several traffic violations were committed: the driver forgot to turn on his headlights, he had no taillights, and one of the passengers wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. As police continued to follow, the driver made a lane change without signaling (Texas-style), ran a red light, and stopped past a crosswalk. Finally, police initiated a traffic stop.

This is how you get caught.

Police found a "small amount" of weed on one suspect. One officer noted, "he's being cooperative and it's just a little bit of weed."

Nov 18, 10:00 PM

South Austin (Woodward St. & Texas 71 area)

Undercover narcotics officers set up a drug deal with a suspected dealer. The suspect insisted that the officer come to her to get the drugs because “she thinks it’s a set-up.” For some reason she thought this would be safer.

They met in the parking lot of Vic’s Bar-B-Que in south Austin, and officers ran every license plate in sight. The suspect was then followed (on foot) to her apartment on Mission Hill Drive, where the drugs were set to arrive, by a team of undercover officers.

A series of cars and people came and went, but nobody seemed to have any drugs. Eventually, the girl told the narc that “there’s nobody out tonight” and that they probably wouldn’t be able to get any drugs.

Minutes later, police saw her do a “hand-to-hand” with another suspected dealer. They then watched her hide the drugs in her bra. The woman, who was described as “heavyset and wearing an orange UT sweatshirt,” brought the drugs to the officer. Arrests began to be made and people scattered, trying to get away.

There was a report of a fight in the apartment complex shortly after the sting began, and police spent the rest of the night going from door-to-door with Spanish-speaking officers, tying up loose ends.

Nov 22, Midnight

South Austin (Banister Lane & Texas 71)

I was woken up by a low-flying police helicopter, which was circling for about an hour and shining its spotlight a few blocks from where I live. I turned my scanner on. In addition to a helicopter, K9 units were brought in to help find fleeing suspects in a string of auto break-ins.

Police records showed that at 8:00 PM, earlier that day, two vehicles belonging to Ecological Communication Corporation, located at 4009 Banister Ln, were broken into. Then, at around 11 PM, a man living down the street reported a stolen license plate. Less than ten minutes later, three more cars were broken into at 4009 Banister Ln, but this time they belonged to individuals. It’s unclear if anyone was caught.

I guess things really are heating up in south Austin.

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