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February 20, 2007
In May of 1969, detective Joe Kowalski, a seven-year veteran with the New York Police Department, was living at 130 Clarkson Avenue in a quiet, low-to-middle income neighborhood in Brooklyn. One day, the apartment building's parking lot began to look like a luxury car sales lot, as people began streaming into the building at all hours of the day to see a new resident who had moved into a three-bedroom apartment on the fourth floor. "I didn't like him the first time I saw him," Kowalski recalled in reference to his new neighbor. "He was loud and flashy, drove fancy cars and had no visible means of support. His friends would block the driveway with their cars and park in other people's parking spaces. Some of them carried paper bags that looked as if they might contain money. As a cop, I knew I needed to pay attention to them."
Kowalski put the new neighbor and his visitors under surveillance and began taking down license plate numbers. As a detective in the NYPD's Intelligence Division, Kowalski had no problem doing background checks. When he put the license plate numbers through Motor Vehicles, he was not surprised to learn that many of the cars were registered to known drug dealers living not just in the Big Apple but also in cities throughout the eastern U.S., including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, and in Durham, N.C.