In Hunting Park, a neighborhood known for drugs, police officers Matt Dydak and John Teetz claim the majority of the people involved in these criminal activities actually come from outside of the neighborhood.
“It’s a shame for the people that live here. A lot of the people that come down here are drug addicts from nice neighborhoods. They’ll buy their drugs here, shoot up here, throw their needle on the ground and leave. They do not care about this neighborhood, they do not live here,” said Dydak, 26, who has partnered with Teetz for most of their three years on the job.
The police officers took me on a ride-along in June to show me the streets through their eyes. One potential danger: needles on the ground, especially in empty lots. For example, Dydak and Teetz responded to an assist call on Thayer Street. As they walked through an empty lot, not only did they have to worry about the suspect, they had to worry about getting stuck with a stray needle.
“A lot of times when a drug addict is running, he’ll throw the drugs away which can be dangerous because in some cases its a needle loaded with blood,” the 31-year-old Teetz said.
The police officers in Hunting Park, part of the 25th Police District, do not just patrol the streets. Sometimes they have to follow a drug addict into an abandoned building to see if the addict is buying. If the addict is getting high, they have to find out where the addict bought the drugs.
People have a perception that the only way police get information is by threatening people. Officer Teetz disagreed.
“In order to be a good cop you have to have people skills, getting out and getting physical with a junkie isn’t going to get you any information. You have to talk to the guy and reason with him. You don’t want to be mean to everyone. Who knows, maybe one day I could be in trouble out here and need help,” he said.
Dydak and Teetz are friendly with some of the drug addicts and use them as informants; they have one guy they go to frequently and the man often gives them solid information. He would like to be kept anonymous, but the addict told us what makes the dealers so tough for police to catch is they don’t use drugs.
“They [the dealers] aren’t in it to make just a couple bucks and get high. This is their livelihoods. They are in it to make big money and that’s it. They even fly lawyers up from Puerto Rico to defend them. They leave no bases uncovered,” the addict said.
Teetz described how tough it is to bring down a dealer.
“These guys are not stupid. They know the deal. They know after a drug user buys that if the user is caught, he’ll sell out their spot to the police so he don’t get locked up. They have eyes everywhere out here. They know when we stop a user and the second we stop the user and ask him questions they are already changing the place where they have the stash,” he said.