Original Air Date: April 4, 1989
Produced and Directed by Hector Galan
Written by Hector Galan and Bob Ray Sanders
Behind the gleaming face of Dallas lies a war zone. Police spend half a billion
dollars a year fighting drugs, but they're losing the war.
I believe I could do a better job.
So the black community, at odds with the mostly white police force, is taking
matters into its own hands.
What we are doing, no one else has dared do. We're challenging the pushers and
the drug houses directly.
Tonight, on FRONTLINE: "The Dallas Drug War."
Good evening. The Bush administration has made its first target in the war on
drugs--the streets of Washington, D.C. There have been more than one hundred
twenty murders here so far this year, most of them drug-related, and drug czar,
William Bennett, has declared Washington a "test case" of the government's
ability to control drug crime.
But cities across America are finding that fighting the drug war is more than
fighting crime. They must also confront the social, economic, and political
problems that plagued the community before drugs did.
Tonight, FRONTLINE examines the drug war in our neighborhood in one American
city. Our program is called "The Dallas Drug War." It was produced by Hector
Galan. The correspondent is Bob Ray Sanders of Dallas public television station
Dallas, Texas--March 1988.
The Dallas Police Tactical Unit confronts two suspected drug dealers in a
supermarket parking lot.
Last year, the Dallas Police made over ten thousand drug arrests in a city that
has quickly become a major drug trafficking center. Here in America's seventh
largest city, drugs are everywhere.
Former car salesman Steve Gerkin was part of a six million dollar-a-year
cocaine ring that allegedly included a Dallas businessman and a lawyer. Last
year, in a battle over turf, Gerkin killed another drug dealer with a car
In the city's fashionable West End, police raided the trendy Stark Club,
arresting thirty-seven people for buying and selling cocaine. Some of them were
allegedly snorting it straight off the club's bar.
And last fall, at W.T. White High School in North Dallas, an undercover officer
posing as a student, conducted a four-month drug investigation. The police then
arrested twenty-eight people including nine students for selling marijuana,
cocaine, and LSD.
I want to see them go to the pen. Where they belong. This is really serious
matter about, you know, inside the school.
People up here be selling joints and stuff, smoking in the bathroom all the
time. This is terrible. It is really.
Like all American cities, Dallas is trying to fight a war against drugs. But
this is a city that is also at war with itself. Dallas is a divided city.
Divided by politics, by class, and by race. Demographically, half of the city's
one million residents are black or Hispanic. Geographically, the city is split
at the Trinity River and the Interstate Highway System. Most whites live north
of the line. Almost all of the blacks live here on the black side of town.
South Dallas is home to more than one hundred thousand people. Traditionally,
it has been a stable and close-knit community. South Dallas has some of the
city's oldest neighborhoods and roots here are deep.
In the forties, many black families began moving to Dallas from farms in East
Texas. Many of their children were raised here in South Dallas, and today, this
is a community full of people who don't want to live anywhere else.
DOROTHY DAVIS, South Dallas Resident
We bought here because this house was built in 1895, and uh, my husband and I
have enjoyed uh, redecorating it, and painting it, and uh, making it look like
Dorothy Davis and her husband Theodore are both school teachers. They have
lived in this house in South Dallas for fifteen years.
When you hear bullets all night, you, you, you afraid for your life. You just
The Davis family has seen serious changes in their once peaceful neighborhood.
When oil prices plummeted in the eighties, the recession hit Dallas hard and
South Dallas even harder. The unemployment rate here is now twice as high as
And as city leaders continued to neglect South Dallas, it became an inevitable
breeding ground for drugs. Today, the police call it the war zone.
JULIE DAVIS, South Dallas Resident
They told me what to expect when I came home for the summer. They like, "Julie,
the neighborhood has changed." And I thought, well, it can't be that bad. Maybe
a few minor changes here and there, but I worry. I value their safety. I really
do worry about their, their, you know, are they-are they going to be safe at
night or is someone just going to break in and maybe, you know, take their
The Davises have two daughters in college. Last summer, Jackie was away
studying in Los Angeles, but Julie was home on break from Atlanta.
It hasn't been peaceful since I've been home for the summer. Not one night, it
hasn't been peaceful. There's gunshots every night, every single night.
The Davis family invited FRONTLINE to spend a couple of nights with them to see
for ourselves. Through their living room window we watched, using a camera
equipped with a night-viewing device.
As night fell, activity picked up on the streets outside.
Inside, Dorothy turned to a fresh page in her notebook where she keeps a log of
the shootings each night.
As the camera continued to roll, the Davises and our crew huddled on the living
room floor in the dark.
And nobody really believes that this goes on in your neighborhood. This is
almost like being at war. It has come to the point that I, that as a family we
need to do something about it because this is, this is just getting to be
A lot of people probably say, you know, why don't you just get out and move
out. But uh, I didn't uh, the environment came to me.
The thing that bothers me about the crack houses and the drugs being sold in my
neighborhood is the shooting of the guns. Now that bothers me.
It's frightening 'cause you're like, oh my goodness, are they shooting toward
our house? Is it going to hit our house? Are the bullets going to come through
the window? And it's very--it's just very nerve-wrecking.
I think about my family, you know, true enough number one. But I also think
about uh, just the innocent people around.
A twelve-year-old innocent girl that was in the "I Have A Dream Program" and
had planned to go to college was innocently killed. Just because someone was
walking around with a, a high powerful gun.
Last summer, just half a block from Dorothy's home, sixth-grader Michetta
Mornes was shot to death as she stood on the steps of her friend's house. There
have been more than twenty drug-related murders in the Davis' neighborhood.
Reverend Tom Thompson:
'Say, nah man, now 'say you get out of my yard.
Reverend Tom Thompson has lived in the same house in this neighborhood for
...So somebody--I didn't see the man--came up the alley. And then he made two
shots. He shot one the first time out there, and the man ran up here on my
porch. This is when he tried to get him coming up on my porch. You see, but I
never did see the man, 'cause I'm sittin' here on my porch, but I can't get up
and go no runnin' or none o' that 'cause he might shoot me.
It's terrible in South Dallas. It's a threat to the whole black community. I
teach my child uh, drugs is not the way out. But he has no chance when he come
into the community. You can teach truth in the home but if you don't come
together in the streets it's all useless.
You don't have enough people wanna stop it. It's too much money It's so much
money involved until the people that can actually handle it don't wanna stop
it. And the little man can't do nothin' about it.
It's wide open, wide open. It's all in this community. Every corner you turn,
there it is.
I thought I was moving to a better location, better atmosphere for my children.
But I didn't really know what I was getting myself into. Like several times I
have been standing on my porch waiting for my ride and couple of people have
asked me if I know where to get some cocaine.
You can't ride down the street without somebody almost getting hit by your car
trying to stop you and sell you drugs.
I've gotten calls from the police chief that say we're doing something about
it, I'll be out there in the next two weeks, and things go on as they have
They should be more concerned about it. And this is, this is uh, the finer
weapons is not only uh, in this neighborhood, uh, it's round about the city.
The police know what's going on up here. When this shot when they right here,
they say "You have to be careful, you see what's going on..." I say, "Yeah." I
say, "How come y'all can't do somethin' about it?" No answer.
I am angry. Because I feel like that, that if you care for all of the citizens
in a city, then you would do something about it.
Dallas officer Chris Hackbarth has patrolled South Dallas for more than a
OFFICER CHRIS HACRBARTH, Dallas Police
It's still pretty bad down here. They're going through the alleys here, and
they're--all they do is back and forth, back and forth. These drug dealers are
taking the lifeblood right out of South Dallas.
All those people sittin' up there, they're bunch of them are good eyes for the
crack house. They see a cop coming and they yell a code word and by the time
anybody gets there, the crack's already gone.
They've got one good eye in the front of the apartment complex, one good eye in
the back. You drive up and there's no way that you'll, you'll be able to uh, to
A lot of the owners put up fences around their apartment complexes, but it
takes a day or two and they rip holes through 'em. Tear 'em down.
Top floor, there's a crack house. They're not operating it today 'cause there's
The city's primary response to the drug problem in South Dallas has been a show
Last year, the police staged well over a thousand drug raids in South Dallas.
They estimate that there are now more than four hundred major drug houses in
this community, almost all of them selling crack.
You got some little rocks here, this is crack. They just squeeze it up real
good, this--what you can do is if you feel, if you feel it, it's real mushy.
You take it and roll it into a ball, and smoke it real easily.
DEPUTY CHIEF RAY HAWKINS, Dallas Officer
It's cheap, it's highly addictive, it is uh, the primary factor in uh, a great
portion of all the crimes that occur in this division.
The man the Dallas Police Department assigned to protect South Dallas was
Deputy Chief Ray Hawkins.
There's tremendous amounts of profits to be made by the sale of crack. I've
never seen any drug that, that had that kind of an impact on a community.
The police estimate that the crack houses in South Dallas take in more than
half a million a day. The drug trade here is controlled by Jamaican and Cuban
gangs who moved in from New York and Miami. Police believe these gangs are
responsible for seventy murders in the past two years. But despite the
thousands of arrests, the police admit they rarely capture the kingpins who
control drugs in Dallas.
City Hall, 9:00 a.m. Last August, Dorothy Davis brought her frustrations to
Mayor Annette Strauss and the rest of city council. It was the second time she
had been here.
I don't understand why Mayor Annette Strauss has not come out. I don't
understand why all of the city council members don't walk these streets so
they'll know. Come out and spend the night, and you'll see what's going on.
The city council has eleven members representing Dallas' one million residents.
But while half the city's population is black or Hispanic, the city council has
only three minority members. Council members Al Lipscomb and Diane Ragsdale
represent South Dallas.
DIANE RAGSDALE, Council Member
You know, this city has been uh, it's a very strange place because usually the
elite, business leadership, primarily white men, uh, dictate the direction of
this given city uh, and now what's taking place is that people are, people are
trying to uh, force those very same people to share some of the economic power
and to share some of the political power.
Dorothy had expected to speak to the council in the morning, but by noon she
was still waiting.
DR. PAUL GEISELL, Director of Urban Studies, University of Texas
These two councilpersons only have two votes out of eleven members of the city
council. Uh, that doesn't give them what you would call a significant amount of
Dr. Paul Geisell is director of urban studies at the University of Texas at
Arlington. For almost twenty years, he has advised Dallas leaders on racial
problems in this city.
Uh, in Dallas, we've historically had a business community that has brought
forth most of the proposals for change and development in the city. If you want
to get something done, you went to that oligarchy. We want to make Dallas
whatever is necessary to attract the next big company. That does not mean
improving inner city neighborhoods. That means improving upper income
neighborhoods and making them ever so much more pleasant and protected.
Gee, I'm tired. I've been here all day. Good afternoon, my name is Dorothy
Davis. I live at 1421 Sanger...
Finally, at 5:45, Dorothy got her three minutes in front of the council.
Just this morning, while speaking to a neighbor, who was sweeping glass, I
looked down and to my amazement I found this shiny bullet that I hold before
you. I have constantly called the police department, I've called several
council members, and I have constant reported the shooting that goes on in my
Mayor Annette Strauss:
Mayor Annette Strauss:
Two weeks ago, you came and showed me...
I still have them, with a new one. Yes.
Mayor Annette Strauss:
Well, and I know Ms. Hart spoke to you, and someone was supposed to meet with
you and to try to help you, whatever happened?
They spoke, they came, they talked to me, but the shooting still goes on.
Constantly, all night, Just two days ago, two men have been shot.
Thank you very kindly, Ms. Davis and...
Mayor Annette Strauss:
Ms. Davis, I hope we'll be able to help you.
This type of environment can create a sense of powerlessness, this type of
environment can create a sense of hopelessness. People ask me the question all
the time, why is it that we hire these officers when they don't even reduce the
crime in our community?
(12:43) A look at how Dallas's drug wars have affected race relations. The
situation is brought to a head when several citizens and police officers are
shot and killed
This is how the Dallas police are fighting drugs in their city. These officers
are on their way to a crack house where, earlier, an undercover agent had made
a drug buy. Now all that remains is to make the arrests and seize the drugs.
In South Dallas, police make as many as ten raids like this a day.
More than 40 percent of the drug raids in Dallas end up like this one--no
dealers, no drugs.
Increasingly, the police are confronted by heavily fortified crack houses, and
sometimes they are simply outsmarted by the dealers.
We make a tremendous amount of arrests in that area. We seize an awful lot of
weapons. Uh, we seize an awful lot of drugs and money, uh, but as you can see,
that has not arrested that particular problem.
And the people of South Dallas are left wondering if the police have already
lost the war on drugs.
If they are going to do something, I have not seen evidence of that. I, it
could be that I'm naive and I don't know how the police department fights
crime, but I believe I could do a better job.
She has a right to expect a better quality of life than what she's got uh, in
her neighborhood. Uh, she's one of those individuals that this is her home. She
doesn't want to move. She wants the criminals to move. And, and we're gonna do
everything that we can uh, to help her.
You don't know the community, so that's another factor of stopping crime, is
getting to know the people in the community, know the people on your beat. Uh,
Chief Hawkins has never come to meet me.
The man the police do send to talk to the people of South Dallas is Levi
Williams, the department's civilian director of community affairs.
LEVI WILLIAMS, Director of Community Affairs
I can think of this one incident where we had a crack house and 'cause uh, the
people in the area said, well they, these people never been busted. And 'cause
we go in, sure enough, there's a crack deal going on and they-vice makes the
buy, they bust them, and then we check the records. They've been busted four
times. Now, they're not in the same house, but they just moved down the street.
Or they just sent in other people to work the area. So the people are
frustrated. And what you get to hear at that point, what are the police doing?
And then you get the people that, that's just fed up.
...and don't see the type of environment that I been looking at for some
I try to stay away from telling people, "Well, we busted this guy six or seven
times." They don't want to hear that. They want to see the police department
doing something that's going to make a tremendous difference in that area.
Can you tell me why these people would be out here on the streets, especially
right down here, without no lights? No reason, other than to sell and buy
Another major police drug enforcement strategy in South Dallas is to stop and
question anyone who looks suspicious. But that's a problem because in this
almost entirely black community, nearly 80 percent of the officers patrolling
it are white.
Get your hand out of your pocket. Get your hand out of your pocket.
There's a lot of people in the area that do not trust the police.
What are you doing back here?
Just sittin' here talking to some old friends.
You live here?
No, sir. I'm, I'm in the service.
What business do you got staying out here in back of an apartment complex?
I thought he knew somebody.
You thought he knew somebody? What are you doing back here?
Just sittin' here, sir, talkin'...
Whose car is this?
My mother's, sir.
Can y'all step out please? Put everything on the trunk there. Thanks. Keep your
hands out of your pockets.
After a thorough search of the car and its occupants, Officer Hackbarth would
find no drugs and make no arrests.
Any drugs or anything on you?
Nah, man. I don't mess around.
Last year, the city received almost a thousand complaints about police
harassment, abuse, and brutality from the citizens of South Dallas.
Now, in terms of the complaint, the officer has the right to pat you down when
you got out of the car...
Anytime that you have someone that's complaining about excessive force, uh, or
not communicated with an officer that well, you usually store it in your memory
People see the police as a suppressor because the police has to carry out the
order, so to speak.
But the most serious complaints against the police involve their use of deadly
Get up. Get up. Police. Get up. Watch his hands, man. He's a, he's awake. Get
your hands out from under that blanket now, now.
In the last three years alone, Dallas police shot sixty-seven people.
Who else is in here?
Twenty-two of them died.
One of the most shocking police killings happened in 1973 when a young burglary
suspect was shot in the head while he sat handcuffed in a police car.
His name was Santos Rodriguez. He was twelve years old.
Since that time, Dallas has fought a series of racial and political battles
over an unending string of police shootings.
Santos Rodriguez was clearly a watershed. It was an opportunity for change.
What we didn't get here was an accountable system. And I think there were those
who thought they would. City didn't take that opportunity because they didn't
have to. Other kinds of priorities took on, "We're growing right now, we're
booming. Things are good. Don't rock the boat." So in the final analysis,
minority members were told, "We'll get to that later.''
The officer who killed Santos Rodriguez was eventually sentenced to five years.
Darrel Cain served eighteen months.
But over the next fifteen years, the Dallas police would shoot and kill more
than a hundred citizens, most of them black or Hispanic.
A routine investigation appeared anything but routine...
In 1986, the black community was outraged when the police killed
seventy-year-old Etta Collins who had called to report a burglary in
...Collins, we declare an official day of mourning in the city of Dallas
It is just what everyone had feared. In Dallas once again, a black victim is
dead. Killed by police bullets...
Then less than a year later, eighty-one-year-old crime watch volunteer David
Horton was shot to death by the police as he chased a burglary suspect.
After these killings, the black community demanded help from the federal
government, and in 1987 they got a congressional hearing to examine whether the
Dallas police were using excessive force against minority citizens.
...or does the police department contradict this set of facts ? Where do we
As far as the details of the investigation and how those things came to light,
After eighteen hours of testimony, the committee strongly criticized the
department's record and its policies, but never issued a formal report.
The two black members of the city council, Diane Ragsdale and A1 Lipscomb, have
been the most vocal critics of the police.
AL LIPSCOMB, Councilmember
It just doesn't make sense for us to keep on killing these people with these,
with some of these racist white policemen in these areas. When they have been
sensitized, to deal with the cultural differences.
Let's say, for instance, that you have a team of officers, and we say, well, we
know in this block what two blocks that there's nothing but crack houses. So
we're gonna go down there and crack heads and kick butts, right? If they make
one mistake, and you are already talking about a problem between police and
community, a city that have already had a congressional hearing because of
deadly force. They make one mistake, that one mistake is magnified ten times.
So the police have to handle this with kid gloves.
The climate in Dallas right now, uh, as far as the things that really scare me
the most, is if I ever have to use deadly force. I don't wanna be crucified by,
you know, some people, some powers to be in city leadership you know, because
there's always gonna be 20/20 hindsight and people are gonna second guess you.
But I don't wanna have that affect my judgment. That, you know, I don't act the
way I should, I don't protect my partner, I don't protect myself, as far as
using deadly force, or using a different type of force. You know, I don't wanna
have somebody get hurt because I hesitated that split second, because I, I was
unsure if I'm gonna get crucified in the press or get brought up on civil,
civil charges or lose my job.
When you criticize a given officer's behavior, it's amazing to me how, how most
of those officers will take that personally. And how, you know, this whole
fraternity, and brotherhood, you know, is, is really uh, yeah. See, they--it'll
start circulating and you know, the brotherhood and fraternity makes it very
difficult to uh, isolate the bad apples. The sense of brotherhood, you know,
you know, and so that's the problem. It's the bad apples. Some of those guys
In 1986, the police struck back at their critics. Angered by what they saw as
continued lack of support for the officers in the field, the predominantly
white Dallas Police Association marched on City Hall to demand action against
councilmembers Ragsdale and Lipscomb.
We feel that the city council should, at the very least censor these two
councilmembers in order that both Ms.--Mr. Lipscomb and Ms. Ragsdale, publicly
apologize to the citizens of Dallas and to the officers of the police. The most
proper action, for Mr. Lipscomb and Ms. Ragsdale to take, after their apology,
would be for both to resign from the city council of Dallas.
Racial tensions reached a new peak in Dallas early last year. But this time the
trigger was the murder of two police officers.
In January, officer James Joe was shot and killed as he confronted two
Less than two weeks later, Officer John Chase was killed by a mentally
disturbed black man in a downtown parking lot.
An angry police chief, Billy Prince, placed part of the blame on councilmembers
Ragsdale and Lipscomb.
The atmosphere that's been created by the numerous critics I think has
certainly contributed to a person who might be on the edge of something like
this, going forward with it.
Can I give you this bumper sticker?
The friends and families of the predominantly white Dallas Police Association
quickly organized a massive show of support for the police.
The marchers urged every driver in Dallas to turn on his headlights, and many
Police officers are your friends...
But the black community saw these demonstrations as sympathy only for the slain
white officer, and those feelings boiled over at a dramatic city council
meeting as Diane Ragsdale accused the organizers of treating the black
officer's death as an afterthought.
An afterthought, an afterthought. Racist, racist you are. Racist that you are.
You are a racial my child. An afterthought.
You are the racist, ma'am. You're a racist. You're a bigot.
That's why you didn't turn your light on? Because it was an afterthought. You
are a racist, you practice racism, Joe was an afterthought, ma'am.
You are too.
That painful confrontation that year seemed to sum up all that separated the
two groups who have most at stake in the Dallas drug war. The murdered police
officers split the white and black communities even further. And the racial
tension kept leaders of both sides away from the most pressing need, the deep
social and economic problems that sustain the drug crisis in South Dallas.
In the war zone, Dorothy Davis continued her nightly vigil, discouraged by the
response from the police and city hall.
Outside her living room window, for the drug pushers, it was business as
FEMALE CRACK DEALER
(5:05) A trip inside South Dallas' War Zone, showing how people of all ages
can get caught up in drug dealing when it's a source of big profits or, there's
no other job.
Nobody sleeps. Everybody be out, the crackheads, the prostitutes, drug dealers.
And big money is fast, easy to get. Very easy, very easy.
If they have $3,000 worth of dope, then that's what they'll make back, plus a
This young mother of three grew up in South Dallas. For the past three years,
she has also been a crack dealer, sometimes she says, making over 5100, 000 a
year while working for one of the drug gangs.
FEMALE CRACK DEALER
I have workers that 'll bodyguard me, watch me. I have workers that 'll sit
on--sit in apartments and sell drugs. I have workers that will bring customers
to the place, I have workers that 'll watch for cops. Some places can make a
thousand a day. Some can make five thousand, some can make fifty thousand a
week. It all depends on the quantity, and if it's good. If it's 98 or 99
percent pure, it'll go quick. It's like a jack-in-the-box, you pop in with
your money, give your money, you get what you want and go.
Most older men get involved in drugs 'cause they can't find a job. They can't
find no work nowhere, don't nobody want to hire 'em. But the young kids get in
it for the gold, the money, the cars, the guns. I had a lot of kids where they
would tell me they be eighteen, nineteen years old, come to find out those kids
be fourteen years old. Most of 'em I'd fire, most of 'em made me good money.
But I'd just get tired of looking at 'em and I'd fire 'em, go on home and go to
Most of the crack workers in South Dallas are teenagers, recruited by gang
leaders to serve as lookouts, runners and street dealers.
Over half the children in the war zone live below the poverty line and teenage
unemployment in South Dallas has climbed to 40 percent.
Kid at Fawnridge:
No jobs--and then you go no nothin' to do so somebody come up to and ask you to
sell so you know, they start selling.. Then they 'come addicted to all that
money they be making and they can't stop.
Most kids,, they get a job making $3.35 and somebody offer then $100 a day,
which one you think they gonna take?
I just think it's something they wanna try for theyselves you know,
'cause...you know, to tell you the truth, can't nobody make up your own mind.
It's, you know, it's what you wanna do.
One kid was pretending, he was the uh, crackman, one kid was pretending he was
buying crack, and I say "Lord have mercy, what a loss."
Just living the big life, in the fast lane. That's what it's all about.
Tyrone is fifteen years old. Last year, he finally decided to stop dealing
drugs and go back to school. He says he had been selling crack since he was
TYRONE, Former Crack Dealer
The things that you learn when you're young, it takes over, as you get older,
you know. And seeing the stuff that was around me, it just took over, you know
as I got older and I just thought that I want to sell dope, you know. When I
was working for someone, we would make like a thousand to twelve hundred
dollars a week, you know, working for 'em. But then when you get into the
business for yourself, you set your goal how much money you wanna make.
Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, you make anywhere from nine hundred to about
fifteen hundred dollars per day, and on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and
Sundays, you can make ten, eleven thousand dollars, you know, fast, payday.
Police officer to dealer:
Business must have been pretty good tonight, huh.
Fast as you make it, you spend it just to spend, spend, spend. You never know
what's gonna happen, so you just live it up while you can.
FEMALE CRACK DEALER
It'll take a real cruel person not to sit and think who the drugs go to. My
mother could be gettin' this, my father could be buyin' this, for God's sakes.
My child could've sent and bought a rock and I don't know. You don't know who
It start eatin' at your conscience after a while you know, seein' all these
friends and stuff, how they just killin' theirselves with this dope you know,
so... everywhere you look, there's a dope house, you know, drugs. That's what
it's all about you know in South Dallas.
(11:28) A profile of Fahim Minkah, a former Black Panther who created African
American Men Against Narcotics (AA-MAN) to rid his neighborhood of pushers when
the police failed.
The drug pushers came into the community in a vacuum. They came in with no
competition. They, they captured our youth without any competition.
Fahim Minkah has lived in South Dallas for thirty years. He and his wife
Marilyn are trying to raise their four children in the middle of the war
FAHIM MINKAH, AA-MAN Member
Communities are held under siege, and this is a form of terrorism. The people
are terrorized. Even if they're not directly face-to-face threatened by the
pushers, just the shooting and the automatic weapons and the knowledge of what
they do to one another, uh, psychologically places the people in a state of
Twenty years ago, when he was known as Fred Bell, Fahim was a member of the
Black Panther Party and headed the Texas chapter.
Since 1968, I fought for the freedom of African-American people. I fought for
freedom and justice for all people, all oppressed people. And, I didn't fight
to look around in the same neighborhoods where I waged battle to be taken over
by crooks and hoodlums and uh, drug lords. My resolve is even stronger now
since I'm a Muslim.
Fahim now attends a mosque located in the heart of the war zone.
IMAM YAHYA ABDULLAH
The Muslim community has historically been able to take that element of people
and instill in them a sense of confidence, a sense of pride, a sense of real
faith and belief in God.
Help the weak men, the weak children, the weak women.
Imam Yahya Abdullah is the spiritual leader of this mosque where the drug
problem has become the critical issue.
IMAM YAHYA ABDULLAH
...You have an obligation...
We're talking about the situation in Dallas, but we know it's pervasive in the
whole American society. And it's almost a reverse kind of situation where the
criminals are at liberty to roam free. And the good people are locking
themselves up behind bars, in their own homes. And I think that what we have to
do as good conscientious American citizens, we have to say "No, no more," that
we are not gonna lock ourselves up. The criminals should be locked up, the
criminals should have fear on them.
What's this for?
Last summer, the Muslims organized a new group called AA-MAN--African-American
Men Against Narcotics. Their goal was to harass the drug dealers and force them
to leave South Dallas. In the shadow of the crack houses, they began by warning
the dealers they were being watched.
Woman Reading Poster:
This say anyone selling or buying drugs in this neighborhood will have your
picture taken, and your license number recorded. The information will be
circulated in community and also made available to the police. Anyone who...
They'll actually sell drugs right there on the stairs. So this is a good
AA-MAN also began taking surveillance photos of suspected crack dealers
identifying them to the police and spreading their names throughout the
He's definitely a, a drug flunky...
Nobody has a right to push poison to other people. The drug pusher has no more
right doing what he's doing, than someone would, putting strychnine in the
community drinking water. That is not a right. We're the ones within the right
and we're doing what we have a right to do.
Mobile one, how do you read? Mobile one, do you read us??
We're just a group of citizens exercising our first amendment right to
organize, and engage in as I call civil harassment of the pusher, to expose
him, make it uncomfortable for him, hopefully to drive him out of that area and
keep him moving and running until finally he seeks some other enterprise.
After they identified a drug hot-spot, AA-MAN strategy was to begin intensive
patrols in that one area several days a week.
Man on Street:
Fuckin' do that fuckin' shit, man.
Look out Brother.
Man on Street:
What the fuck you talking about?
IMAM YAHYA ABDULLAH
It's quite dangerous, to be honest with you. It's quite dangerous and we never
know what to expect, but we're not naive and we don't take uh, these people for
granted. We're very watchful and careful what we're doing.
Uh, one of those regulars threw a couple of rocks at us.
Whether we're out there on the streets, our alertness, our instincts, all
geared up to fight.
Ask if we want to walk back through there...
We have to worry about who's in that window, who's in that doorway, who's in
this car coming down the street, who's sittin'in that car that's sittin' beside
I'm just prayin' you know, that he don't walk out there and some of the
headmens or what you call 'em, the leaders, you know, be out there waitin' on
him you know, to just prove that he can't stop it, you know, or try to gun him
down or something. You know, I just worry about him.
As Fahim and the other members of AA-MAN patrol the war zone, they see
themselves as a symbol for the rest of the community that something can be
I look at it as an organizing project. And not beyond a bodyguard thing, even,
even if we have to patrol three days a week for the next year, or longer, in
various areas to keep the example out there. I'm willing and feel obligated to
J and J, may I help you?
Joe Johnson has been a landlord in South Dallas for the last five years.
...tell Lee he needs to check 'em real close so they don't take our
refrigerator and stove...
I'm highly against drugs. I don't like drugs on my property, period.
Johnson owns several apartment buildings and every day, he faces the threat he
will be overrun by crack. So he fights back by immediately evicting any users
or dealers who do move in.
We check all indications of drugs being used. Most of the times when uh, we put
someone out you can tell whether they on drugs or... or they selling drugs. You
see these bags here? These packages where they uh, package crack in. When a guy
gets on this, and he gets on it real heavy, uh, it's cheaper to move him out
real quick because he gonna create a problem for everybody.
Peoples go to work, can't see, police officers that drive down through here,
they can't see. So anybody can hide, in these old houses. I didn't want to go
in, but I will.
Johnson has also begun to lobby the city to tear down the vacant buildings that
surround his properties before they too become drug houses.
You need to run on outta here, police on their way down here.
As Johnson and Levi Williams inspected this abandoned house, they suddenly
stumbled upon a man with a needle in his arm.
This is one of the reasons that we don't want to leave the buildings in this
Well, there's just something needs to be done about it.
And Johnson has also begun to buy and rehab other abandoned buildings in South
Dallas, hoping to create drug-free housing for the people who will live
We're not ever gonna be able to say there's no more drugs, there's no way. The
only thing we does is just slow it down.
You know there's all these clean-up days South Dallas...
Uhuh, because see this is stop crime in your neighborhood, so we ought to say,
let's see, clean-up day--South Dallas neighborhood, why don't you put
neighborhood right down.
After months of effort, Dorothy Davis was finally able to organize the first
crime watch meeting ever in her neighborhood.
You gotta have someone that's gonna have to have contact with the police
Levi Williams conducted the meeting and brought several police officers to meet
with the residents. But most of Dorothy's neighbors were afraid to attend.
They are unsure who to trust, simply because if someone finds out uh that's in
a drug arena, so to speak, uh, you can end up getting hurt. So people are
...is that you gotta get at least fifty or more people that's gonna...
I doubt it very seriously if the police department alone is gonna make a
tremendous impact on a community without the community support.
It is time that we reclaim our rightful role, as the leaders in the protection
of our women and children.
Over the summer, community support for AA-MAN grew. Now with over seventy
active members they stepped up their direct confrontations with the crack
dealers in the war zone.
And what we're doing, no one else has dared do. We're challenging the pushers,
and the drug houses directly.
We're gonna make an example out of 'em.
Soon as they touch one of us, we're gonna make an example out of somebody's
Man with Joint:
Why should the community, help someone that's hurtin' them?
Who's hurtin' them? The dope ain't hurtin' them?
Man with Joint:
Your laws do. Sure, the dope do. The dope and your laws.
I ain't got nothin' to do with the law.
Man with Joint:
Hey, you workin' for 'em.
I'm not gonna say I'm gonna quit doing what I'm doing.
Hey you know that's against the law, don't you?
Man with Joint:
You know what Mister, I've been breaking the law ever since the day I was
Well, go and light it up, I--you're the one going to jail.
Eighteen-year-old Jerrold, is the youngest member of AA-MAN.
The enemy I can say is silence among the black people, silence by knowing the
problems, silence by not working as a unit, to rid of the problem. We can see
the government is not going to do it. Police force is not going to -do it. So
we need to actively as an African-American community join together.
Jerrold was born in Dallas and has lived here all of his life.
Growing up in South Dallas, you're usually going to be touched in some way, by
someone who's using...drugs. I've seen the effects on a lot of my friends. The
majority of uh, young blacks do engage in some type of uh, drug usage and you
know, people do it as an escape. I've seen some do it as a boredom, you know,
not really aware of its effects of getting you hooked, you know. I had a lot
of friends whose moms were on heroin. If their mom wasn't on heroine it was
uh, drugs they called t's and blues, I don't know what they are, but they were
real popular then, and uh, we used to sit around and, and talk about uh, what
we want to be when we grow up, how we're not gonna be like this, and uh, some
of us made it, some of us didn't.
Even during high school, I hid things from coaches, from teachers, I...I just
hid everything you know. "He's a good student, he's excellent, he's an
excellent ball player." But they never knew Chris, really, they never knew who
Chris really was. Chris was an addict.
All your values change. All your, you know, everything that you really
love...doesn't matter anymore. 'Cause uh...when you take that first hit...your
mind is like programmed just to keep feeding yourself more drugs. It's like,
like it's like somebody's telling you, you need another hit.
It was just the high. The taste, the high, smell, it's just a rush that the
high gives you. No other drug gives you that kind of you know, instant hit.
Everything they say about crack is the truth. Some things they just don't even
know because the average person who...who's uh, they...they not a user and
haven't been through it before, they really can't tell you actually, you
know--what, whet 's happening. But I'm a you know, I'm a recovering addict and
a drug user and I know, you know, I, I been there, I've seen it with my own
Because crack is cheap, it is especially attractive to young people and it is
proven to be one of the toughest addictions to treat. Chris and Wayne are among
an estimated four thousand drug users in South Dallas, but few of them get the
help they need because in South Dallas, there is one treatment facility. Its
I saw one of my beat friends die, behind drugs. You know, Just to sit there
and, and see, see somebody die behind a, a drug, it's hard, you know, it'll,
it'll actually change your life, it'll change your life.
Having a parent on heroin was hell...
Jerrold's experience with drugs began at home with his mother's heroin
Occasionally, I would walk in the room unannounced and uh, see a heroin needle
and her fixing the uh, heroin. And one time I recall, at a very young age, she
called me into the bathroom and... and uh, asked me to uh, inject the heroin in
her because she was too shaky to do it herself.
With drug users, drug abusive families, a lot of things a normal child would
expect, we were deprived of. Maybe coming home to some dinner, maybe being able
to go to school with a pencil and paper. We always craved for a normal
Jerrold's childhood was lost to drugs, and so he says he has never used them
and never will.
Someone has to take the role of leading our people, organizing our people,
serving our people, it's time to take action.
In the few months AA-MAN has patrolled South Dallas, drug activity has
decreased in the neighborhoods where the group has focused its efforts. It is
also clear that the dealers have not left town, they have just moved.
We applaud their efforts in that they want a drug-free community, uh, for
themselves and... and that's certainly what we want for 'em. But everything is
not real clear-cut. If it began to edge toward vigilantism, I think our
attitudes might shift dramatically.
Nobody would be permitted to stand on out uh street corners and flag down cars
and sell drugs in the white community. An atmosphere that would justify law
enforcement officials themselves calling an area, quote, unquote, the war zone,
would not be permitted in the white community. It would not be permitted, it
would not be tolerated. That's my argument, that's I feel a fact. I have no
evidence to the contrary.
In recent months, there are signs that the voices of South Dallas are beginning
to be heard.
City Hall responded to the increased racial tensions by hiring a new police
chief, Mac Vines, an outsider from Florida, and gave him the mission of
regaining the trust of the minority community. Vines moved quickly. He
reassigned Ray Hawkins to another division and then promoted Sergeant Robert
Jackson to Deputy Chief and put him in charge of South Dallas.
But many of the old problems persist.
Vines recently fired two officers for beating a black man. And the shooting
And South Dallas is still waiting for the city to begin to take action to
correct its deep economic and social problems.
Woman at Rally:
We're going to get this place back to where it should be. God bless you all.
But AA-MAN continues to celebrate its small victories.
In this one apartment complex AA-MAN patrolled, the residents organized and
together they pushed the pushers out.
Collectively we can solve this problem, step by step, we're determined.
At the Davis home it's quieter now. The crack dealers who shot up this
neighborhood have moved onto another part of South Dallas.
It's a beautiful neighborhood, it just needs a little nurturing and a little
care. But if it comes to the point that we're fighting a losing battle, then I
guess we'll do like other people have done. But I intend to give it my last
Every American city has its stories of courageous citizens battling drugs, but
also constant reminders of how deadly the drug war really is.
Two weeks ago in Miami, Lee Arthur Lawrence, a grocer and activist against drug
trafficking was murdered in front of his store...in all likelihood by the
pushers he had tried to keep out of his neighborhood. Police knew of the
threats to his life, but were unable to provide him with 24-hour protection.
The lesson his neighbors told reporters, is how lonely and dangerous one
citizen's fight against drugs can be.
Thank you for joining us. I'm Judy Woodruff. Goodnight.
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