By Mark David Blum, Esq.
First let me say that congratulations I believe are in order to local police agencies for taking down another organized criminal enterprise. Seventeen more bad guys were arrested this week in the annual ‘Clean Up the Streets and Grab Headlines for Election Time’ campaign. The cost of incarceration, prosecution, defense, and maintenance of these 17 ‘evil drug dealers’ are now upon the backs of all us taxpayers. Another group of real bad guys is now safely behind bars and a neighborhood can start to rest easy. More than a dozen people are now destined to spend a near eternity in some taxpayer funded hellhole. This dance is now thirty five years old and the river of blood and bodies grows along with the problem.
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 the police and prosecutors for working to keep the streets safe.
Now is the time to strap up, don the Kevlar vest, and grab a full metal jacket. Here it is: 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 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. Shortly after prosecutors first attacked Boot Camp, then Elk Block, and then Brighton Brigade, headlines read something like, “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 in the city.” "It tells us there is something going on, some type of dispute brewing." Those words were once spoken by Sgt. Tom Connellan in November of 2005. Trust me, they will be heard again; like that old 45 with a scratch on it.
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 the history since. 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.
But the costs far exceed just the destroyed human lives. What is the street value of the drugs seized? What impact do the seized quantities have upon supply? 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? How many are Black? Finally … was it all worth it?
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 and end to this game. The only ones profiting are the criminals and the cops and the prison industry.
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 mass arrests, dealers may have been taken out of the loop and a network broke apart.
The problems is that now, someone new will step in 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 until election time when our elected ones want their jobs secured. Just arrest an entire neighborhood and the cycle starts all over again.
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. If we cannot keep drugs and CELLPHONES out of our supermax prisons, how are we ever going to keep them out of a free society? An aggressive policy of arresting entire generations from a particular neighborhood 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.
I wholly support good policing. I just wish my tax dollars were being used to fight crime … not create it.
Another seventeen down. How many million more to go?