911 | Our Town | Chicago Reader
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After I dropped my daughter off at high school--she was running very late--I made the mistake of taking a right turn to go home instead of a U-turn and found myself in a maze of one-way streets. At Damen and Rogers I came to a stop sign and watched a rather slim man with matted hair drop a small plastic bag on the sidewalk. Another man bent down, picked it up, and went on his way.

"Shit," I thought, "a block from my house, and this guy's selling drugs in the open."

It couldn't have been even 9:30 yet.

I put the car in park and watched him make another sale, a wad of money sticking out of his left hand and plastic bags slipping through his fingers in the other. After the third transaction I drove home, called the police, and heard a droll voice say over and over and over and over again how everyone was busy, but the next available officer would answer my questions and please stay on the line. After listening to this voice without interruption--sort of like hearing fingernails on a blackboard for ten minutes--I had to hang up. His voice didn't give me any recourse.

I called 911.

"There's a drug dealer on the corner--"

"How do you know?"

I told her.

"Where?"

"The corner of Damen and Rogers. Let me see, um, the northwest corner. Yeah, Damen and Rogers right by the store."

She asked for a description and then asked me for my name and address and phone number. I thought these were supposed to be anonymous calls, and I also thought the Police Department was so sophisticated they already knew who they were talking to when they received the call.

She thanked me, and I hung up and was on my way to make breakfast when the phone rang.

"Hello."

"Mr. Brownstein?"

"Yes?"

"I'm the officer who just took your 911 call."

"Yes?"

"Rogers and Damen are not in our jurisdiction, sir. That's Evanston's territory. I have their phone number--"

"I'm sorry," I interrupted, "what did you say?"

"Rogers and Damen are not in our jurisdiction."

Wow, I thought. I said, "No, it is. The park--"

"Sir, it is not in our jurisdiction--"

"But--"

"Excuse me, sir," she interrupted, "I have the city map right here and it shows Damen and Rogers in Evanston."

"I know it's in Chi--"

"No, sir. Evanston. Call Evanston."

"But--"

"Thank you for your concern, sir." And she hung up.

Damen and Rogers in Evanston? Wow. All this time I've been paying taxes to Chicago and been really worried about what school my children would attend. Evanston?

I called the Rogers Park police department on Clark.

"Yes?" A man answered.

"There's a drug dealer dealing drugs on the corner of--"

"You have to call 911, sir."

"But--"

"If you want to report it, you have to call 911. Even I have to call 911."

"I already called 911."

"So?"

"They told me Rogers and Damen are located in Evanston and the Chicago Police--"

"Damen and Rogers are located where?"

"In Evanston."

"Of course, it's in Chicago. Who told you Evanston?"

"The lady from 911."

"What?"

"I called 911 to report the drug dealer, and she called me back to tell me it was not in Chicago's jurisdiction."

"Call 911."

"I already did."

"Listen, even I have to call 911."

"Call it again?"

"Wait a minute--this is a joke? Right?"

"No, I called and she--"

"A silly joke. And you're an adult. What a jerk."

"But--"

He hung up.

I dialed 911 again. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Ten rings. I hung up.

I dialed 911 again. One ring. Two rings. Three rings.

"Yes?"

"I want to report a drug dealer on the corner of Damen and Rogers."

"How do you know?"

Ten minutes later I noticed a couple of unmarked cars moving slowly down the street toward Damen and Rogers. The dope dealer was no longer there when the first car arrived.

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