Shape Up Or Ship Out

Page 7 of 9

"He's probably had a seizure," Calcamuggio tells the group. "He may have hit his head."

She bends down and rolls him over into what she explains is a recovery position. His bleeding elbow confirms her suspicion that he fell during the seizure.

Calcamuggio soothes Mike until an ambulance arrives. "You're a good boy," she says, in the tone usually reserved for the very young, the very old and pets. "Mike's a good boy."

9:30 p.m.,
13th Avenue and Pennsylvania Street

The Unsinkables are leaving Penn Street Perk, where they've taken a brief coffee break. A few of them choose to call it a night, while the remaining members decide to check out the scene on Colfax. Along the way, they see a familiar face: Carol, who is Kenneth Marion's girlfriend. She's been arrested numerous times in the past for possessing drugs, and now she's sitting on the steps between two apartment buildings with a man named Victor. One of the buildings is on the trespass list, and Goss knows Carol and her friend have no good reason for being there.

"You're not smoking crack, are you?" Goss asks her.

"No," Carol says, and adds, to no one in particular, "Oh, she knows me; she knows I smoke crack."

"When's the last time you smoked crack?" Goss asks.

"Earlier," says Carol, whose voice is startling in its sweetness.

"Earlier today?" Goss presses.

"Yeah," Carol says. "You know I drink and smoke crack. I been drinking all day."

The breathy smell of liquor can be detected from several feet away. Goss pats Carol down and tells her to empty her pockets. Out comes a piece of copper Brillo, which is used as a filter in crack pipes. But there's no rock on her and no pipe. Goss asks to see both Carol's and Victor's IDs, and she calls dispatch. While Goss waits to learn whether either of them are wanted for anything, she, Calcamuggio and Anthony take turns asking Carol about Marion. Carol tells them she doesn't want to talk about her "husband."

"Do you know when he'll get out?" Goss asks.

"You should know," Carol says, her cotton-candy voice betraying the nastiness she means to convey. "You put him there."

"No, he put himself there," Calcamuggio corrects.

"I asked you politely not to talk about him. Please. I told you, it makes me upset," Carol says.

Finally, word comes back from dispatch: There are no warrants out for either Carol or Victor.

Goss tells them to go, but Carol says she's waiting for her friend -- who she insists is sleeping in one of the apartments -- to wake up and let her in. Goss has heard the story before: Somehow all of the crack addicts in Capitol Hill find themselves waiting outside their friends' or relatives' apartment buildings.

"I don't want to keep walking around. What do you do? I'm between a rock and a hard place," Carol says. "What are you gonna do?"

"What you do is get off crack," Goss replies.

"Like crack has anything to do with me not getting inside -- c'mon," Carol says.

Goss has had enough bullshit. "Crack doesn't have anything to do with the fact that you have nowhere to go?" she asks. "You're in denial."

Realizing that she's losing this game, Carol leaves, taking Victor with her. But Goss stays put; she has to fill out a "citizen contact datasheet."

Last summer, to guard against racial profiling, the Denver Police Department started requiring officers to note the ethnicity, gender and age of every person they have "reasonable suspicion or probable cause" to stop. Calcamuggio shines a flashlight on the card while Goss fills in the bubbles. Carol: Black. Victor: Hispanic.

For the Unsinkables, "cleaning up the neighborhood" isn't just a figurative term, it's a literal one.

On a chilly spring morning, Daniel Anthony, Kathi Anderson and Mark Nachtigal stood on the corner of 11th and Pennsylvania, watching tow trucks haul away cars. During the first week of April every year, the Unsinkables, with permission from the city, have cars in their neighborhood towed so that street sweepers can thoroughly clean the roads.

Then they have them towed back, usually to a place that is as close as possible to the original spot, but sometimes a little farther away. (Elsewhere in Denver, cars parked illegally on street-sweeping days get $20 tickets and the city just cleans around them, but in the Unsinkables' neighborhood, drivers get $60 tickets to help cover the towing cost.) This creates a great deal of confusion for people returning to their cars, and as Anderson was chuckling at memories of angry people trying to find their cars in years past, one very irate woman hopped out of the passenger side of an SUV and plucked a ticket off her parked car. She then marched up to one of two bicycle cops who were ticketing the cars as they were towed back into place, and started yelling -- to no avail.

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Julie Jargon
Contact: Julie Jargon