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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dolores Park's Bad Old Days Recalled By Veteran Cop

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2010 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge The park looks the same as decades ago. But looks can be deceiving.
  • The park looks the same as decades ago. But looks can be deceiving.
The recent mob attack of a man wandering through Dolores Park in the wee hours kindled up memories of the park's blood-soaked years a decade and change ago. But, a veteran cop who patrolled the area then tells SF Weekly, the comparisons are overblown. With respect to the 1990s, says the policeman, the Dolores Park of today is -- a walk in the park.

Mission Station Captain Greg Corrales yesterday told Mission Loc@l that the only cops who remember what the park was like 15 years ago have retired. But that's not entirely true. The cop we found remembers those days well and estimates around three dozen of his colleagues do too.

"Things are remarkably better now," said the policeman, who worked out of Mission Station at the time. "Obviously what happened Saturday night was bad [the mob attack]. But 15 or 18 years ago, it seemed like every weekend was a shooting or stabbing."

Dolores Park, in short, the place to score any manner of drugs any hour of the day. Cash-rich drug-dealers were held up at gunpoint with such regularity that, our cop recalls, at one point a handful of them candidly approached a group of police officers and asked if something could be done to help them get home with their drug money safely.

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Drug-dealing -- and the violence that surrounds it -- was only one of Dolores Park's problems. Two of the roughest projects in the city -- Valencia Gardens and the Army Street Projects -- were just a stone's throw away. The Army Street projects were razed in the mid-1990s and Valencia Gardens has been almost totally remodeled (and downsized). This affected life throughout the Mission, not just in the park, says the cop.

Residents in government housing "who caused problems in the district and Dolores Park either went to jail or got moved to wherever they got moved to," he says. "I don't think the cops cared where they went." The current-day hipsters sunning themselves in the park don't even know they ever existed.

Whatever problems those traversing the park have these days, they don't have the one folks dealt with in the 1990s -- "Roving gangs of criminals are not waiting in Dolores Park to prey on people."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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