Monday, 3 November 2008
Diary: Street Dealing
DIARY: I was sitting in the car waiting for Angela a few days ago and noticed 2 suspicious looking men walk past me. I can spot these people a mile off ... clean, new looking runners, freshly washed KMart jeans, short hair, often bulky and looking healthy but unshaven. They have the look and manner of someone going somewhere but not sure where. Slow meaningful paces but ready to stop at any moment. You may have noticed these people before. Always in pairs, one solid and one with a medium build. At first glance they might be a couple of likely lads looking to score but they just don’t quite fit the part and something isn’t right. Then it dawns on you ... they are undercover cops. I was in a suburb adjacent to a well known street dealing area from the days of the so called “heroin epidemic”. Although the area was cleaned up many years ago, it seems business may be on the rise in nearby suburbs. Not really unexpected I suppose considering the balloon effect. Squeeze in one area and another pops up somewhere else. I hadn’t seen a dealer in this adjacent area for at least 5 years. Not that I was particularly looking but drug dealers tend to stand out to a heroin addict. I sat there for about 20 minutes and the two cops walked past twice in both directions. I tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible without looking obvious. Maybe I was somewhat paranoid but my memories of undercover cops is not pleasant. Last time I dealt with these types of people, they were punching me in the throat whilst on the ground. I had 2-3 police officers with their knees in my back and legs as my friendly protector of the law was hammering away at my windpipe. After a short time, another friendly officer started on my stomach with his boots. They wanted my stash that I had swallowed when I was pulled over. For them it was merely a case of inciting a natural bodily function called “throwing up”. 20-30 powerful smashes into my throat with their fist or 10-15 kicks to the stomach with industrial boots should have done it. Who needs water-boarding when you can bring on the feeling of suffocation or death from kicking and punching? I don’t know how prevalent street dealing is anymore. I was initially shocked when I first found out heroin was bought from a stranger on the street as I only ever known buying drugs from a dealers house. As far as I had experienced, you had to know a dealer or have a friend who could score for you. It was never from an unknown on the streets. At the peak of the “heroin epidemic”, you could go to some well known suburbs and there would be literally dozens of heroin dealers bidding for your business. You got to know some of the dealers after while, even to the point where they knew my car and would run up to me before I even parked. Many of them were 14-16 year olds, often Vietnamese/Australian school kids. If I wanted to score early in the morning, I would go to the bus stop where I knew I would catch some students on their way to school. Many of the dealers I would see at night were also students. I only dealt with Vietnamese dealers because I had been ripped off way too often by “Aussies”. The Aussies were considered the dregs of the pack and would always give you small deals or do a runner with your cash. I still had some problems with the Vietnamese but nothing like the Aussie dealers. Some of the Vietnamese dealers were the bread winners of the household even though they were often just kids or in their early 20s. As a prime client, I was sometimes given a phone number and allowed to go directly to their house. This is how I met my current dealer and have been friends with him and his family for about 8 years now. It might seem racist but I found Aussies and European dealers unscrupulous compared to the Vietnamese/Cambodians/Chinese. Dealing with Asians also had another advantage in that you could be sure they weren’t undercover cops. When I was scoring on the streets, I sometimes saw dealers or buyers being busted. It was almost always by replicas of the two undercovers that I had just seen. Maybe it’s a police recruiting requirement to look a certain way before you can go busting junkies? It’s always worried me how someone could volunteer to catch run-of-the-mill drug users but I finally got to understand the type after meeting them on the wrong side of the law. Probably the last time I scored on the streets, I witnessed a bust that confirmed it was time from me to leave the scene. One of the arresting undercover cops was Asian and the busted couple looked more than unhappy. The arrest scene was suddenly filled with undercover cops, uniformed officers and flashing police lights. The street scene would never be the same. The street dealing was eventually cleaned up in the targeted areas but like the balloon effect predicted, other areas soon became the new hot spots. But heroin use was on the decline and the new hot spots were much more subtle than before and attracted less attention. The more experienced dealers started giving out phone numbers to clients and the huge number of undercover cops left over from the clean up eventually soaked up the last few street dealers in the new hot spots. I knew this day was coming where the open heroin markets would become the focus of an attempt to push this problem back underground where everyday day folks wouldn’t have to be subject to desperate junkies looking for a fix. It was too easy and too open. Many of the users around this time were caught up in the sudden popularity of heroin and the cheap, strong gear was too much of a temptation for many. The following months, many of these users gave up heroin and the street dealing went back underground for the long term addicted. The following few years saw heroin use go back to normal levels and this was instantly dubbed the “heroin drought” with the AFP and John Howard claiming victory for the “tough on drugs” strategy. It took a few years though before truth came out that the flood of heroin was replaced with a flood of methamphetamine as Australia’s largest suppliers of heroin simply switched products. As the AFP and Howard were busy with publicly patting each other on the back and telling Australians how they stopped the massive drug cartels in S.E. Asia, methamphetamines(ice) had slipped in and become the major illicit drug problem. The targeted approach had only squeezed the balloon and I watched as suburb after suburb reported first, a huge heroin problem and then a successful clean up from the police. Eventually, the first few suburbs popped up again and the cycle continued. It wasn’t until methamphetamines became a major problem that the heroin street dealing cycle started to diminish. The claims of success from the government were short lived of course as the drug hysterical media started reporting ice as the new national drug scourge. Back in my car watching the two undercover cops, I had to wonder what exactly they were doing here. With the AFP seizing less than 4 days worth of Australia’s daily consumption and current busts of the Mr. Bigs being insignificant, the need for media attention is critical to the perception of success. Nothing makes the government, the police and the anti-drug groups happier than a headline reporting a drug bust ... regardless of how important it is.