By Trevor Bach
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When people in Allapattah get intense about trash, planting trees, or highway construction, they come to Sumner, president and founder of the Allapattah Homeowners Association. She's a single mother of three who works full-time fixing the neighborhood's problems.
Lately the concerns have been far more pressing. She plays back a phone message from a resident relating how police swarmed into the neighborhood recently looking for one of the boys at 1024. "Something has to get done," the voice on the answering machine pleads.
"This neighborhood has a lot of old people and they are not used to this," she says quietly.
Sumner has lived through Allapattah's recent history. She moved here from Overtown as a teenager in the early Sixties, like numerous other black Americans and a sprinkling of Jamaicans and Bahamians. Most of those who settled Allapattah were professionals: teachers, accountants, and mechanics who migrated to escape the growing blight in Overtown caused, in part, by the construction of I-95.
"It's been a very quiet, hard-working neighborhood," she says. "The majority of people are in their sixties and own their own homes."
It was Sumner who cajoled the mayor into visiting the neighborhood, and specifically the notorious home at 1024 NW38th St. But she's in a dilemma. Most of the residents complaining about the problems at 1024 are too scared to talk openly. Sumner's scared herself. Shortly after talking with New Times, she says, the Homeowner Association's board of directors asked her not to talk, fearing her involvement might provoke a violent response from the boys.
That fear is palpable during an afternoon visit with some of the residents who live closer to 1024. They gather on a tile patio surrounded by ficus trees and wandering Jews, at a residence whose address they don't want disclosed. They don't want their names used. They don't want any identifying details used.
"Gunshots? Daily. Helicopters? Police cars? This is going on here all the time. The neighborhood is under siege. We might as well call in the National Guard," fumes one woman. "We are the law-abiding citizens and we're the ones under siege!"
"This is the glorying time of my life and I can't enjoy it," says one retiree who has lived in Allapattah since the Sixties.
One man details the morning this past November when, while straightening his bed, his housecleaner ran into his bedroom and announced that a man with a gun was running through people's back yards. The police arrived in force and evacuated everyone from 36th through 39th streets. A helicopter hovered overhead; dogs were brought in. It was what police call a "perimeter search." A car stolen from 47th Street had ended up at 36th and a man with a rifle was seen running from the car. He got away.
In January police again arrived en masse, this time to search 1024 for items stolen from the shoe store. "It was like waking up to a nightmare," says another retired resident. "It was the middle of the afternoon and there were a dozen police cars out in front of the house. They cordoned off the street. I thought to myself, 'I wish this would end.' I don't need this kind of carrying on."
It's the middle of the day and Anguiera's not home. Young men are lounging on the concrete steps that lead up to the battered front door. They agree to chat, to respond to the neighbors' complaints, but only under the protection of street names the police won't recognize. There's C-Lo, 15, Frog, 16, Black, 20, and Doo.
"Back in the day, people used to do bad stuff around this house. It was so on fire they probably think it's still like that," Frog says. "But it ain't like that no more."
Black can tell you how it used to be. The other boys describe him as one of the 38th Street Crew's founders, and he doesn't deny it. A tall, lean twenty-year-old who sports a knit wool cap, Black says he no longer participates in the crew's criminal activities, largely because of a two-year jail stint for grand theft auto and burglary.
"The chase, in a way it feels good; in a way it feels like your life's in jeopardy," Black says. A mouthful of gold teeth glints as he recounts his first police chase, four years ago. His tone is both wistful and enthusiastic, in the way some young men recall their glory days as high school athletes.
He and his boys had taken the Metrorail to a mall and boosted a high-end Mitsubishi Diamante with a screwdriver and pulley tool, the type body shops use to fix dents. Then they drove back to their meeting spot in Allapattah, loaded the car with homies, and drove to a Burdines. They wrapped a chain around the front gate, hooked it to the car's bumper, and popped the store open like a bank vault. They ran through the store like frantic Christmas shoppers, grabbing piles of shirts and pants and belts.
When they heard sirens, the boys clambered back into the Mitsubishi and shot over to the highway, Black at the wheel. He drove at speeds over 100 mph while his homies stuck their heads out the window taunting police, the rush of air filling their lungs like a wind sock. Tupac Shakur's "All Eyez On Me" was thudding so loud in the car's stereo that the doors shook. Black, of course, lost the cops.