The Lives of Criminals Still Happened Even If We Don’t Want to Believe It.

1618 S Street

The early nineties are often considered a turbulent and formative time for much of Washington DC. While some pockets within the metro area were experiencing tremendous growth, others like DuPont’s northeast quadrant were littered with crime. This disproportionate wealth and social decline was not in the best interest of the city moving forward and a concerted effort on the part of the authorities and the local government led to mass drug busts, a drop in criminal activity and a closing of the socioeconomic gap. While many citizens saw this as positive development for DC, the arrests were viewed only as a collective effort. The individuals involved often lose their names in favor of gripping headlines that garner the highest tv ratings. However, the lives that these drug dealers and convicts lead before their detention are just as vibrant as those who never see the inside of a jail cell. They are integral parts of their community’s history regardless of their wrongdoings.

Plato often discussed the unending human search for immortality. One such point he made was that the human soul exists through the objects we create or the places we inhabit. All material items hold a piece of us because without them, the experience of the individual would simply not be the same and the past was at one point contingent on that entity. The same principle can certainly be applied to the buildings on S Street. The history of this city is not without the people who the government perceives as a negative influence. 1618 S Street, the place of the final arrest of notorious crack dealer Garnell “Baldie” Campbell, will always have a piece of the crime era within the now gentrified neighborhood.

While 1618 S Street is the focus of the “built environment” the apartments, like people, are intertwined in a complex ecosystem of similar history. The effects of the mid-nineties’ are quite similar for the houses beside 1618 as well as the rest of the block.  As seen in a detailed report of the 1993 arrest which saw the takedown of 4 separate buyers and sellers of illegal substances and paraphernalia, the street once sat in stark contrast to the proudly wealthy neighborhood it is today almost fifteen years later.

Upon first glance, it is obvious to see the main idea and gather a feeling for the intended audience in this situation. United States v. Wilbert B. Warren , 42 F.3d 647 clearly emblazoned atop the case report shows not only the formality of the Washington D.C. court system but the straightforward nature of the information (Commernet). There is not detailed humanizing description for those arrested. Instead labeled by name in the nature that farmers tag cattle. This lack of identity while practical undoubtedly feeds into the mentality that criminals are not human beings and their time in the city must be expunged from the course of history.

This document is purely for public record. It could be said that at the very core of this report is an exercise of government control over anyone searching for court documents. It is unlikely an individual goes searching for a previous case not deemed a “landmark” or “precedent,” but the government of the United States is quite aware that freedom of speech and information lies within the fabric of our government and the constitutional right an ethical trial in the modern day implies that information should be given freely to those who request it. Beyond an assertion of government power it serves to educate on the timeline of the surveillance process leading up to the arrests, the steps taken to complete the detainment and search of the property at 1620 S Street, the indictment and the trial. It is a literary map to a significant drug bust for Northwest DC.

The court system of Washington D.C. can beyond doubt say that it acts on the interest of the civilians of the city. They cannot however say that the reports fairly represent those citizens it exercises its power to convict. The reports are taken from the direct statements of the officers involved in the arrests. Given the fact that the police scrutiny was a major concern two decades ago as well as American society today, painting the officers in the good light is a major priority of the city in addition to the department. The 90’s were pivotal for race relations in the city as well, a topic which has not lost meaning to the DC community. The fact of the matter is that in a situation like the one presented in the court hearing, having both sides of the story simply will not work. There is a level of trustworthiness that is lost on the part of the felon, especially one accused of having crack cocaine, thousands of dollars in cash and an unregistered firearm in his residence. Additionally, taking a second opinion of the arrest could lead to conflict within the community for any potential missteps on the part of the police. Telling both sides of the story becomes more than just a difficult task. In this way, the authorities are handed complete command over reports not only because they both write and publish the articles, but because criminals cannot be taken at their word if they have been proven to lie and those laws which are so implicit. History is often said to be written by the victor. In this case, the victor is already pre-decided. The criminal will never be able to get a fair say, but in many circumstances their actions justify that lack of public vocalization.

Just the same as any other situation in history, events do not take place within a vacuum. The early and middle years of the 1990’s was a vibrant time for the city of Washington. Crack cocaine persecution had reached its peak by the time the arrests in 1993 came around. Cleaning up the streets became a paramount importance not only to limit substances, but to limit any drug related violence the resulted as an externality to a turf war. In 1990 the former mayor of D.C., Marion Berry, was arrested in a parking lot in possession of crack. It was obvious at this time that the city was being torn apart at the seams by the drug market and a mass extermination of crime seemed like a viable option for the authorities. Additionally, tragedy struck the already overwhelmed police force shortly after the bust at 1618 S Street in the form of a massacre inside the Metro Police Headquarters. A horrific event in which a gunman opened fire on three officers and then himself only heightened the fear within the city (Bensen 2014). Beyond the conflict and division that was taking place within Washington, a larger uneasiness was taking shape beyond city limits. The United States as a whole was entering a temporary period of stagnation. The economy began to sink slowly downward with no injection of capital on the horizon at that time and paired with the uncertainty that is inherent with an upcoming election cycle, made for a tumultuous ecosystem during the mid-90’s. While the arrest of local drug dealers may look insignificant, the fact that it serves a purpose for urban revitalization and a much-needed publicity boost for the police and an encouraging example of forward momentum for citizens in a world lacking change can only be revealed through context.

While the case summary makes for a compelling story, a proud moment for the members of the Metro Police Department, and a piece of the puzzle which creates the story of the neighborhood, the point still stands that it has no obvious direct connection to the apartment located just beside it: 1618 S Street.Within The first section of the court documents there is an intricate explanation of the surveillance techniques used to get the information needed to secure a warrant and be certain of illegal activity taking place within the house. Unfortunately, for the residents next door, Baldie and the other tenants were also being watched closely and having the actions analyzed under a microscope. The video recordings specifically are what eventually did the kingpin in during his trial, but argued that it was an unfair use of evidence given the fact that what the police found was purely happenstance. Mr.Campbell felt that because he was not the one being watch he did not deserve to be subjected to the results of any investigation. A court of appeals in 1995 would later rule that he was incorrect and the verdict reached following his arrest stood without question (United States vs Garnell). While the entire neighborhood was suspected to be filled with unsavory characters, there was often not enough evidence linking them to a crime for police to move in. In the case of Garnell Campbell however, the waiting game the cops were willing to play caught him in an unintentional trap and resulted in a defining moment for the neighborhood and the house in the middle of the street.

In short, it a small portion of the life of the building located at 1618 S Street has been spent in some of the darkest years for the city of Washington. The crack epidemic in contingency with a drug abusing mayor and a rollercoaster of success for the police force put places like this small neighborhood on the map. These areas were the first to get “cleaned up” in the wave of battling the problems associated with large scale substance abuse and were therefore precluded to the fastest development. The area was scoured of all crime and made ripe for investment and wealth to flow through the streets of the northwest corner of the city. Even today the incredible change in the landscape of the community makes the area feel unrecognizable. It would be a difficult task to convince someone that just two decades prior, the streets were overflowing with misconduct. Today there sits a small tan apartment with two floors. It has been there for decades before me and likely will be here for many years after. As is portrayed in this court document, the life of a building can be quite fluid. One day a crack house and the next day a multimillion dollar piece of real estate. This property still has many years and will likely experience another cycle of growth, but it is vital to recognize that all parts of history play into the life of a building not just the “good.”

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