In the single key hour on Wharf Street — from 12:40 am to 1:40 am — on an unseasonably warm Friday night last week, no cops bothered to show up in uniform. And the Phoenix saw only two undercover officers. (Another two solidly-built, crew-cut guys, wearing too many clothes for the 46-degree weather, might have been undercover officers who were either playing “drunk” or were just uncoordinated, stumbling on the cobblestones.) The two for-sure cops took a 12:40 drive around the Old Port in an unmarked-but-still-obvious black Ford Crown Victoria with extra antennas and cop-car hubcaps. One of them showed up on foot just after 1 am, strolling back and forth along Wharf Street, and ultimately settling for a smoke near the largest group of people.
He had already missed the night’s biggest action.
At 12:45 am, a yelling match outside the Oasis between two stocky young men ended when a from-the-legs punch sent one of the pair sprawling, his blood spattering the cobblestones. No police showed up to arrest the puncher or even to help the assaulted guy, who got up and walked away as bystanders grabbed his assailant to prevent any more pummeling. Oasis bouncers did not move from their posts at the door ten feet away.
The cop also wasn’t around when a drunk young woman yelled at her friends, and then at the crowd, who had turned to stare. No violence, just angry confusion. Another woman, later, saw a tiny skirt falling off a friend, and decided to “help” by pulling the skirt to her knees. The cop also likely didn't see a scary-skinny blond kid begging for coins in a storefront on Fore Street, or a guy taking a piss behind one of the Dumpsters on Wharf.
Even when he was there, the nonchalant cop missed a drug deal going down forty feet to his left, in which three young guys were locked in an intense conversation for more than 15 minutes, with a lookout posted nearby. The deal was a $5 down-payment for a small bag of something, with a promise of more in less than an hour.
- Jeff Inglis
With only two hours of real “action,” from 11 pm, when things really pick up in the Old Port, to closing time at 1 am, bar owners have to make money fast. There are two ways to do that: charge so much for drinks that nobody can afford more than a couple, or pack people in and sell them as much alcohol as they can drink — even if they’re drunk already.
One obviously hammered young man, inviting Phoenix staff into a club, described his job in terms sounding a lot like a headhunter: he claimed he gets paid to get people on the street to come into his employer’s club, earning a sort of commission for drawing in more business.