If the Vice Squad Is Reduced to Cracking Down on Uber, Why Do We Have a Vice Squad?

Categories: Schutze

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So tell me again. Dallas vice cops have been running undercover sting operations to protect the local taxicab industry from an app-based private livery service? Know what? I don't think that's really a story about livery services. That's a story about the vice squad.

The vice crackdown on Uber, a web service that arranges rides, involved cops using smartphones to summon rides and then busting the drivers who showed up for violations of local taxi law. So work with me on this. Taxi regulations. Vice. Do you see the connection? I don't.

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Livery service miscreants, beware! The city of Dallas shall find you and shall destroy you.
When City Council member Scott Griggs blew the whistle on this deal, it wasn't so much a defense of Uber. Griggs said he wondered how the city could justify a full-court-press major undercover vice squad sting operation just to protect cab companies from unwanted competition.

And why vice? Does vice not have enough to do or something? Has Dallas finally run out of good old-fashioned vice? Is greed a vice? Well, sure it is. But is the vice squad going after greedy people or defending them?

I have to admit, my first thought when I saw this story was, "Here comes Old Yellow." Last time I saw any cab news around here was early July when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the city of Dallas T. Boone Pickens Memorial Taxicab Law giving natural-gas-powered cabs the right to jump the waiting line at the airport. That was good news for Yellow Cab, which had invested $8 million converting some of its fleet to CNG after Dallas passed the line-jumping law, bad news for small operators who didn't have $8 million to spend.

The make-them-use-CNG law was only the latest in a history of regulation by the city aimed at wiping out the small crappy cab industry, which, by the way, I loved. Why would anybody love small crappy cabs? Because those were the guys who would take you six blocks in Uptown. You felt like you were in midtown Manhattan, as opposed to the way it is now, where getting a cab in Dallas is like applying for a mortgage.

I will take a risk on a beat-up exhaust-belching cab that looks like it recently had a goat in the backseat and the driver is haranguing me the whole way about either Obama or Oklahoma, I can't tell, if that cab will take me six blocks and, frankly, be grateful for the fare. I don't like having to walk half a mile to a hotel, wait in line 20 minutes, submit to a credit-history check and then the driver harangues me the whole way in excellent English because I'm not going to the fucking airport. I do not want my cabs to be excellent. I want them to be there.

But here is another rub. We need to be careful what we wish for. If we tell vice to stop hounding livery drivers and go after some real vice for a change, what does that mean? In the old days the traditional list of vices to go after was 1) Gay men being gay, 2) bad ugly cheap prostitutes interfering with the operations of fine-looking high-dollar prostitutes, 3) gay men being gay, 4) dirty movies and 5) you got it. Do we really want to remobilize the vice squad on those issues now?

And that raises the question: What's a vice squad to do with itself these days? I actually have sympathy for them. We tell them, "Go out and raid illegal gambling joints." Then we bawl them out and say, "Not the illegal gambling joints where the mayor's father gambles, you bozos!" You know the old saying, caught between a rock and a hard place? Umm, second thought, let's not go there.

When we get done figuring out how to protect Old Yellow from unwanted competition again and how to make sure nobody can take a cab ride in Dallas for less than $75, then I think we ought to come back to the question of the vice squad. What is it anymore? And that would raise the philosophical and moral question, what is vice these days?

There have to be a lot of good cops on that vice squad. The crackdown on Uber could be a sign it's time to turn them loose and let them go do some police work.


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45 comments
whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Want to know who slipped it on the agenda - A.C Gonzalez  - Please Mary, come back

ac.gonzalez at dallascityhall.com

casiepierce
casiepierce

I have a philosophical question: what is this post even about?!??

Don North
Don North

I've had it with the Dallas PD over zealousness ---arrests for Uber, Jay walking tickets, bicycle helmets enforcement, I'm writing and email to the Chief, about the ss gustapo tactics, this is Dallas not the former USSR! maybe a follow up with an open records request, wasting PD resources in this FN BS!

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

I won't say I'm "glad" vice is involved, because it's a gross misallocation of city resources and authority. But it's the only thing making this whole Uber story interesting. City staff trying to sneak items into the agenda at the behest of politically connected donors? That's just called Wednesday at City Hall. If and when they get caught, staff will lie and claim that there really was a good reason other than the influence of money and the recommendation/action item will get kicked back to a committee so we can all see how much time and thought they put into their decisions rather than just taking their donors words for it. But using the police to actually go undercover and harass a private business at the behest of a competitor? If it was a bunch of Italians doing it and not a bunch of lackeys at City Hall, that would be called the mafia. Someone really needs to contact Rudy Giuliani and see if he wants to grab a few more headlines by coming to Dallas. It's a win win. We get to clean (some of) the crooks out of city hall and he gets to be in people's recent memory for something other than failed presidential campaigns. 

hat2flat
hat2flat

"bad news for small operators who didn't have $8 million to spend."  So small operators are the same size as large operators? 

Michael O'Neill
Michael O'Neill

First, another great piece; I love Jim Schutze. Second, like Reagan said about government, the police *are* the problem. Thirdly, I posted this on Facebook to fuck with the arrogant tools who think they own The Snarkey Comment-o-Sphere of the Dallas Observer.

tom.mccollum
tom.mccollum

Very well said. However, this is Dallas politics at its intramural best. Sad to think that Über is a priority for our police department. Vice's involvement reeks of partisan politics--who's in who's pocket I wonder? And we must ask ourselves... is a nasty 'ol cab really worth fighting for? If there was ever a service segment in need of disruption, I can't think of a more deserving candidate than a goddamn old-school taxi service.

John Juett
John Juett

My thought exactly when i saw this

ryan762
ryan762

Remember last year when the city sent the vice cops to investigate claims of price fixing and other illegal behavior by local cab companies?

Me, either.

yoka
yoka

There's something sinister about a city's leaders sending it's police to undermine a company on behalf of another company (or companies).  Especially police who have a history of planting pool chalk on day laborers and then busting them for drugs.  In fact, that makes these stories I hear about DPD's "Knock and Ask" practice -- strolling up to selected residences and politely requesting entrance so they can establish some sort of probable cause -- even more sinister.


RobertStinson
RobertStinson

JimS - I was really hoping that you were going to ask how a cab company was able to throw its money at a whiskey-voiced consultant. The consultant was then able to allegedly use her friendship with the City Manager to influence DPD and put together a proposed law that would not be debated by the full city council.


whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

Look, its almost football season and Im sure Vice will be very busy soon and on speed dial to assist at any "grown men getting into a fight about football" at Dwaine Caraway's house.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

What I want is the vice cops put to work taking care of the assholes who tailgate, don't use their turn signals. turn from non-turn lanes, and the like (things that will actually improve safety). Or, we could put them to work trying to solve burglary and other crimes where there are victims.

Shoot, if the vice cops were just going after prostitution involving human trafficking, I would be happy.

gregmarcydagama
gregmarcydagama

Schutze write a great allegorical piece to an empty toilet bowl. Thanks, Dallas. ~ / ~ OM 

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Come on now, where's you civic pride  - they're just trying to keep Dallas "world class" now that the Gay men being gay, ugly cheap prostitutes and dirty movies have been cleaned up.

ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

Here's what you do...next cab ride you take, if it's dirty or... call 911. And if they bitch, tell em that's their new job-cab enforcement.Who on the council is doing this? No memory of Al Lipscum?Someone please catch them at this obvious collusion.

if6were9
if6were9

It'd be cooler if they were known as the mod squad.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Why didn't they call 311 and file a complaint with Code Enforcement where they will send someone out to investigate in 5 to 10 days.

everlastingphelps
everlastingphelps topcommenter

Maybe they should go bust a few of the cocksuckers at the horseshoe in City Hall.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

It's just business as usual, with a sprinkling of gestapo for flavor

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

We need gypsy cabs.

jmckee3
jmckee3

Actually I would like it if vice went after the cab companies, try getting a cab in Uptown that will take you where you want to go, not rip you off, obey traffic laws and accept credit cards. They are nearly non-existent even though it is city law. Uber is not the problem, Uber is a symptom of the problem is that cabs suck and have a general disdain for their customers, Dallas deserves better, Dallas deserves Uber and hopefully they will scare the cab companies into providing a decent product where they don't feel competition from a service that is much more expensive.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

A vice squad should have cracked down on Miley Cyrus' slut show. 

Mexia_Camorra
Mexia_Camorra

@Michael O'Neill 

Jim S is awesome on local issues but blows hot and cold on state and national ones. Cops and politicians are always problems since they can't mind their own business. Anyone who has an active FB account lives in a glass house and shouldn't throw rocks but I bet that's never stopped you before.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@RobertStinson Is there really a question to be asked about the council side of things? This may come as a shock to people who have apparently been living under a rock, but that's how things get done at city hall. Now that they're taking on a popular Web 2.0 App they appear to have unnerved people who were otherwise complacent about the murky process by which business gets done in our city. But every land deal, tax incentive, transportation project, public works project, etc is the product of massive lobbying by the business interests who stand to profit from them. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that the outrage has apparently hit some sort of boiling point over a car service. But there's so much more to be angry about and they get away with it because so few know enough to care. 

betterthangarland
betterthangarland

@Tim.Covington most people don't give the police cash if they find their missing truck,  cab co. will pony up the dough for squeezing out the competition.  Capitalism at it's finest.

RobertStinson
RobertStinson

@dallasdrilling.wordpress.com 20 years ago they did. The African immigrants (Somalis, West Africans, etc) who make a large portion of the cabbies are not beholden to the NAACP or South Dallas. Quite the opposite. Now, South Dallas politicians have deep connections to the cab companies.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

@jmckee3 If cab companies in Dallas actually followed the laws that are on the books, Uber would have no addressable market. 

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

@jmckee3Because Uber is the cab service Dallas deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we'll hunt Uber. Because Uber can take it. Because Uber's not our cab service. Uber's a silent guardian. A watchful protector. A Uber Knight.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz 

No kidding, with the exception of pretty much everybody, who wants to see hot little scantily clad sluts humping and grinding on stage?

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