The drugs are stashed in socks, in underwear, in the dirt, under a rock, in a tree, in a paper bag a block away, in a slit Coke can, in a box of Pampers in a baby carriage, in garbage cans, in the mouth so if trouble arrives you can gulp. The crew of street hustlers functions as interchangeable parts in order to foul up the cops. One time the guy in the white hoodie takes the order, 20 minutes later it's the one in the red hood. And when you're out there dealing, you play it close to the vest. "I don't go up to no cars," says one teenage jum peddler. "You wait for them to come to you. And if somebody gives you like, a 20, you look at it real close to make sure no kind of mark is on it at all, 'cause the cops, they be trying to get slick."
To further forestall the police, the gangs deploy crew members as lookouts blocks away from the basehead bazaar where biz is actually being conducted. Humboldt, for example has sentries at Humboldt and Crawford, Humboldt and Ruthven, and Humboldt and Homestead. When the police approach, the lookouts let out a birdlike whistle down the line, a sound that roughly translates into: "Yo, cuz, Five-0 on the set." Other gangs use hand waves, tips of the cap, or just plain full-force shouts of "Five-0" as early warning alarms.
"A lot of people in law enforcement don't give the kids credit for the level of sophistication that they have," one cop says. "They've adapted over the last two, three years, like chameleons. Every time we come up with new tactics, they come up with new tactics."
"Overall," says Emmett Folgert, "they're thinking. And that's where we're in trouble."
There's also been a technological explosion among the crack dealerships over the past year. Mini walkie-talkies are extremely popular among certain gangs. The Timberwolves of Walnut Park for example. Handheld Radio Shack police scanners are also reportedly the rage. The scanners are also popping up in cars and homes. Police busted one Franklin Field kid who had a major, 52-channel programmable scanner that could pick up every frequency from Area B Boston cops to the state police.
Beepers are big -- especially the ones that can receive a message directly. The $30-a-month rental fee is chump change for $1000-a-day crackerjack executives. Also part of the program are car phones and even-more-advanced cellular mobile-communication systems. "Now there's no such thing as you can't get me," says one street source. One kid was discovered at Hyde Park High reportedly arranging drug deals over his portable phone.
If the police manage to break through the technology, the kids fall back o their street smarts. Cops come around the corner, the kid who's holding the drugs walks away. Three, four of the boys throw themselves at the police: "Yo, what's up man. I'm clean." The cops approached a bunch of kids on Copeland recently. Right away the crew came up to the cops, threw their knives on the ground. Distraction. Meanwhile, the kid packing the 9mm tried to walk away slowly. He was collared before he could skunk out. The culprit: that up-and-coming drug entrepreneur, Hack.