Back in the ’80s, two gung-ho cops started snagging junkies as they rode back to NJ through the Holland Tunnel after Lower East Side re-up jaunts.

Back in the ’80s, two gung-ho cops started snagging junkies as they rode back to NJ through the Holland Tunnel after Lower East Side re-up jaunts. It’s not like it was hard to spot the returning shoppers: five people stuffed into a decrepit little car (with not a cent to spare, gas guzzlers never were used), attired in salvaged clothes, and often one or more already on the nod. (Why travel in a sure to garner attention little flock? Economy yet again ruled. The owner of the car made a few dollars by the rest kicking in for gas and tolls, which cost less than the individual train and subway fares.) As the police had their quarry pull over at the corner of 15th and Henderson — just across the street from the Tunnel Bar — tavern patrons enjoyed many hours of true crime diversion. The travelers were ordered spread-eagled to the sidewalk and there nearly strip searched and the vehicle ransacked. (I never saw any of the arrest reports, but I presume that the paperwork would show that I’d hallucinated and the contraband actually was immediately and clearly in plain view on the dashboard or the seat of the vehicle.) If the sifting operation failed to find anything, the rag tag crew might literally receive a shoe to the behind and be told to get moving.

One of these little dramas was underway a bright and sunny day. Something unusual was a hobo sitting on the step outside of the bar. As the homeless generally avoided police scrutiny, this struck me as strange. I even thought to myself, “Does he want to be next?” This intercept was a ball four for the cops. Some hours later, I again happened to be standing by the open door. The car that had been previously detained returned and stopped. The driver and a passenger jumped out and ran over to the adjacent yard where the bar’s garbage cans stood. A furious rummaging around ensued that lasted for only a few minutes. Empty handed and visibly frustrated, they hopped back into the car and left. I guess that the tramp had seen or sensed the hidden treasure and in a quiet moment proceeded to make it his own.

I remember another car that was (at first) missed by the vigilant JCPD duo. It was parked a block away on Provost St. A few minutes later, a door opened and someone fell out onto the asphalt. Then, another person jumped out of the car and ran to the Merit gas station and made an emergency call from one of the pay phones. The police car and an ambulance soon arrived. A search failed to turn up anything. Those still in the car were questioned and by their gestures seemed to be vehemently denying all knowledge of heroin purchases or use. After the ambulance took off with the one who’d ODed, the rest were allowed to leave. It seems impossible to believe, but nearly exactly twenty-four hours later the very same car parked in the very same spot on Provost St. As luck would have it, after only a few minutes, the patrol car was headed up Henderson St before it lurched to a sudden halt. There was a brief pause of seeming hesitation (maybe the officers at first couldn’t believe their own eyes, thinking the sight some sort of imagined deja vu?) before the police turned and quickly floored off in pursuit. Their car screeched to a stop, blocking any escape for the foolish. This time narcotics possession was obvious; arrests quickly followed.

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About Anthony Olszewski

Anthony Olszewski has written on a wide variety of topics: cage birds, tropical fish, popular culture, the poetry of Amiri Baraka and a chapter on genetics for a veterinary text book, as a small sample. He worked as an editor at a magazine produced by TFH, the world's largest publisher of pet books. Anthony Olszewski is the author of a booklet on Hudson County history, Hudson County Facts, and a book of short stories, Second Thief, Best Thief, that are sold on Amazon. Anthony Olszewski established PETCRAFT.com in 1996. A pioneer on the Web, the Site continues to provide unique information on a range of companion animals, focusing on birds and fish. As a community service, he operates Jersey City Free Books. Anthony Olszewski was born in Jersey City, NJ (Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital, 1956) and is a member of Mensa.
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