It's the Same Old Song and Dance

By Mark David Blum, Esq.

Woohoo Oswego! Let me be among the first to say congratulations to local, county, State, and federal police agencies for taking down four local drug dealers. The supply of cocaine in Oswego was probably disrupted for all of about -- what -- 3.4 seconds? It took almost two years of investigation, breaches of privacy, and at least four named police agencies to get these ‘evil drug dealers’ off the streets. The money in manpower alone must have been in the millions. It is just another yolk on the backs of all us taxpayer oxen; especially those in Oswego which what, saw another 284% tax increase? Here we go.

Another group of real bad guys is now safely behind bars and a County can start to rest easy. These four American citizens are now destined to spend a near eternity in some taxpayer funded hellhole. This dance is now more than forty years old and the river of blood and bodies grows along with the problem.

Then there are the costs; demands that far exceed just the destroyed human lives. What is the street value of the drugs seized? What permanent impact do the seized quantities have upon supply? (Ivory poachers even if never stopped have a limited supply. Cocaine, not so much). An one hour interruption? One day? Which if any of the guns seized were legally owned? How many of those will be returned to their owners? What about the cash? How much money has already been spent in investigation and arrest? How much of that was overtime or resources diverted from terrorism, robberies, and rape? How many of the defendants will now need a lawyer, housing, processing through the system, use of court time and resources, medicare resources, insurance resources, and/or long term incarceration? How many marriages have been disrupted? How many children will lose one or both of their parents? Who is going to pay for their support and future public assistance needs? How many will be able to lead productive lives after their contact with the criminal justice system is over? How many are white? (none). How many are Hispanic? (all). Finally … was it all worth it?

Count me as among those people who want safer streets, where adults and kids are free to hang out and live their lives as they so choose. ‘Organized criminal enterprises’ are a threat to us all. Nobody should have to live in fear of random violence. No group has the right to dominate and control a neighborhood. It is be unreasonable to tolerate sociopathic behavior. Kudos to police and prosecutors for working to keep the streets safe.

But, because of this headline grabbing arrest, now is the time to strap up, don the Kevlar vest, and grab a full metal jacket. The reason is simple: Arresting a Drug Dealer does NOT stop demand or supply of drugs. Doing so will not make your streets safer. All it does is create a job opening. That is at the core of our nation’s failed policy on drugs.

I am going to step out on a limb here and predict the newspaper headlines within the next six months. Check your history. Soon there will be news reports of, “stabbings, shootings, and shots fired have gone up in recent weeks … and the surge over the last several days suggests that there's some kind of dispute.” "It tells us there is something going on, some type of dispute brewing." Those worse have been said before and trust me, they will be heard again; like that old 45 with a scratch on it. When the violence stops, everybody will know there is a new network in place and demand and supply have equalized again.

Every time you arrest a ‘drug dealer’ and shut down a drug network, you simultaneously create job openings for a new one. Since the employment scene in the drug market is not one regulated by government but organized crime, whenever police sweep clean a street, there is always a subsequent and lasting rush of violence and death. What happens though when two competing organizations want to market their product in the same territory? Death, destruction, shootings, violence, and instability in the market. Look at history. More money, more police. More arrests and imprisonments. Drug business violence escalating.

Instead of working for a way to enable business disputes to be settled with high powered lawyers in court rooms, prohibitionists insist on a policy that leaves no option but to resort to high powered weapons on street corners. Vendettas last forever. The innocent are dying in the crossfire. Kahari Blue and Rashaad Walker are the poster children for this failed policy.

Don’t think that by imprisonment for forever sentences, you will keep these folks from using and engaging in drug business. There is a joke that says, “don’t do drugs because if you do you will get caught and go to prison and drugs are real expensive in prison.” There is not a single drug free prison in this nation. Not one and I challenge anybody to prove otherwise. Charles Manson was caught twice with a cellphone in his cell. Since we cannot keep drugs out of our nation's most secure prisons, then how will we ever keep drugs out of a free society? We need a new approach to this entire situation. A War on Drugs is not the right answer to the nation's drug problem.

I ask you: When is the cycle of violence and addiction to the drug war going to stop? How many more dead and wounded children will it take before people sit down and finally put an end to this game. The only ones profiting are the criminals and the prosecutors, cops and the prison industry. Politicians are addicted too because the issue is sexy at election time.

There is an epidemic of burgeoning violence which is the real cancer killing our society. Like hopeless addicts; folks keep engaging in the same behavior, despite knowing how bad and ineffective it is, and how doing so is going to kill … and despite that, nobody seems to care and we want it all the more.

By making these arrests, dealers may have been taken out of the loop and a network broke apart. The problem is that now someone new will step into the breach and fill the void. But, should two people want the same job; instead of interviews, we get gunfire. It is that simple. Do you get it now? Once shots are fired, they fire in two directions and then on more occasions and then it becomes intergenerational. The cycle only worsens because the cops will come back and the whole process starts all over again. Meanwhile a generation of children grows up hating the system and losing a future.

How it is that despite everything there is nobody who if they want any particular drug, not only can get it easily, but probably has some already. An aggressive policy of arresting entire generations or networks does not reduce in any way, anybody’s ability to get any drug they want.

Where the whole situation becomes truly insidious is the ethnic cleansing underway in Onondaga County as a result of this same War on Drugs. Here are the hard data: Whether you agree with me or not, you cannot disagree with the cold reality.

“Arrest rates and corresponding arrest ratios that were calculated for Onondaga County were then compared with statewide averages with a few nearby counties. … Specifically, the arrest rate ratios indicate that the chances of arrest for black residents in Onondaga County are substantially greater in Onondaga County than nearby counties or the state as a whole. … During the years of the study, the arrest rate ratios indicate that chances of being arrested for drug felonies or drug sales are 20 to 40 times greater for black residents.”

“According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Statistics, arrest rates for black residents within New York State as a whole are about 4 to 5 times higher than that for white residents. … The unique nature of street drug markets in urban areas has sometimes been offered as an explanation of why minorities experience higher drug arrest rates than whites. Statistical evidence indicates that drug use patterns within these two racial groups are similar. However, the corresponding arrest rate ratios in Onondaga County are significantly higher than the arrest ratios in Erie or Monroe counties and also significantly higher than those for NY State as a whole. … These large differences in arrest rate ratios for Onondaga County have persisted over the time period included in this evaluation (1995-2004). This raises important questions, especially given the similar characteristics of the counties included in this assessment—Onondaga, Monroe, and Erie all have diverse urban, suburban, and rural communities.”

I do not bear any police officer any ill will for enforcing the law. The mistakes and failures of this policy of prohibition are not as a result of actions by police. Rather, the mistake is government using the criminal justice system to engage in what is clearly a health and education issue. Don't take my word for it; ask the experts. I wholly support good policing. I just wish my tax dollars were being used to fight crime … not create it.

Four more Americans more down. How many more millions to go?

Back to the MarkBlum Report

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