Monday, August 26, 2013

'Dallas police are finding drug houses by walking up and asking'

It has long amazed Grits how frequently people - both law abiding folks and criminals - give police consent to search, both at traffic stops and in their homes. The Dallas News has a fascinating story ("Dallas police are finding drug houses by walking up and asking," Aug. 25) about:
Source: Dallas Morning News.
how a 3-month-old “knock-and-talk” task force finds criminals.

The task force is part of a renewed effort to target small-time drug dealers after the department reduced the number of undercover detectives dedicated to investigating low-level drug crimes more than two years ago. Police shifted their focus to larger-scale traffickers, but now they blame petty drug disputes for an uptick in murders this year.

Since the 46-member knock-and-talk task force started in May, its officers have made 509 arrests and seized 131 firearms and 404 pounds of drugs, said Deputy Police Chief Christina Smith, who oversees the narcotics division. The task force also has made 399 possible drug house contacts.

“It’s another way to lower crime and to make good arrests that will end up putting and keeping the criminals in jail,” Smith said.
But some experts say knock-and-talks are risky and may yield only the easiest cases.

The investigations rely mostly on neighbors’ tips about unusual activity. Uniformed officers walk up to front doors and ask for permission to go inside. Police record the audio of the conversations to ensure that they have explicit consent to enter.
Consent searches have sometimes been abused at traffic stops, leading several Texas jurisdictions to require written consent to search. In Austin, after racial profiling reports found significant racial disparities regarding who was subjected to consent searches, the department began to require officers to get supervisors' permission before performing them. Over time, once the low-hanging fruit has been disposed of, Dallas may find similar problems with "knock and talk." It's good that they're using their body mics to record consent, but the department should insist that officers continue recording throughout their interactions.

Still, the dynamic is fascinating. Reported the News, "The shift in strategy caused strife among narcotics officers who think the best way to eliminate drug houses is to make undercover drug purchases." But that case is hard to make given the large number of arrests resulting from the tactic. This method seems to lead to plenty of arrests and has the added benefit of generating more confidential informants who may have information about more high-volume distributors.

Radley Balko has described how ubiquitous the use of SWAT teams has become during the routine execution of search warrants in the war on drugs, but Dallas cops are finding that, if they show up and ask nicely, plenty of suspects will invite them in the front door. Given that reality, couldn't the use of SWAT teams to execute routine search warrants be diminished? It seems like the risks have been dramatically overstated.


Phelps said...

The joke from Good Morning Vietnam comes to mind immediately. "How are you finding the Viet Cong? 'Well, we walk up and ask, are you the enemy? And if they say yes, we shoot them.'"

It goes back to the harsh reality of police work. The only reason that we solve as many crimes as we do is that criminals tend to be really, really dumb.

Anonymous said...

Years ago I knew a customs agent who would walk up to houses in Miami and ask for permission to enter a house and search it. He wasn't refused and would find hundreds of thousands of dollars of laundered money every time.

Why did they always give permission? Most individuals were South or Central Americans used to the more coercive methods of their home countries and assumed he would just enter if he was denied so they always gave permission.

quash said...

That's how most rights are lost: voluntarily.

rodsmith said...

I was just thinking the same thing. This just shows how whipped the former american citizens are.

The proper respons should always be

"Do you have a warrent"


"Sorry Not Happening!"

Anonymous said...

Grits, you are gonna love this one:

Anonymous said...

I’ll be… Foot Patrols & Door-Bells - the key to winning the Rs'. & Ds'. war(s) on the: poor, adolecence, unemployed, those with long hair, short hair, no hair, suspicious vehicles, walking around in public with evil baggy pants, tatoos, & popular.

Being from Texas provides me the upper hand in the art of decernning if something is bullshit or not. Just because the nosey-ass Kravitz tells the cops that Joeblow has a lot traffic dosen't mean he's a dealer or user. He just might the only one with a damn X-Box or a working A/C.

With that, we need to know the numbers relating to the folks that said "No, My parents said to never let strangers in the house when they are gone.", “You could be fake cops”, ect… Leaving out the obvious is a sign in it's self.

Anonymous said...

There is no way that everyone is just saying come on in. The way that non-Texans can tell the difference is simple, every time that there is 'no' recording of the entire incident it becomes the report writer's version of events.

Consider the fact that the DMN has 'embedded' reporters assinged to every department in the county, the reader will get the police version every time.


Anonymous said...

The police already know where the drug houses are, it's the one's with boarded up windows and doors where they busted a few "baggies" last month.

Then again, one can sell drugs out of a bay in a car wash, the parkinglot of any store, junkyard, trailerpark, flea market, restaurant, park & club restrooms,... Recently drugs were even being bought and sold out of a cops house & police gym (in Dallas County), (steroids are still considered drugs right?). Doh!

Anonymous said...

No, steroids are not considered drugs when police officers use and sell them. When that occurs, steroids are categorized as vitamins...