By Mark David Blum, Esq.
Congratulations to New York State’s Attorney General and governor wannabe Andrew Cuomo for leading “Operation Trump” and arresting more than two dozen of our fellow citizens and neighbors on drug charges. This neverending ‘Clean Up the Streets and Grab Headlines for Election Time’ campaign resulted in four and a half kilos of cocaine being taken off the streets. The cost of incarceration, prosecution, defense, and maintenance of those ‘evil drug dealers’ is an unknown but guaranteed to be a significant weight upon the backs of all us taxpayers.
Over the years, I have written extensively on the subject of the mismatch of using the criminal justice system as a solution to the nation’s drug problem. It a dance now thirty five years old and the river of blood and pyre of bodies grows along with the problem. You cannot blame me. We have been doing it your way for nearly half a century.
Here it is: Arresting a Drug Dealer does NOT stop demand or supply of drugs. All it does is create a job opening. This is your nation’s policy on drugs.
On far too many occasions now, I have stepped out on a limb and predicted newspaper headlines within six months after one of these sweeps. I predict a surge in violence and that police will blame the dispute on the drug trade. Then one day police will announce that shots fired and drug business violence has slowed or stopped which will mean another drug network is in place and working.
Prohibition does not work. Every time you arrest a ‘drug dealer’, though you shut down a drug network, you also create job openings for a new one. Since the employment scene in the drug market is not one regulated by government but instead run by organized crime, whenever police go out and sweep clean a street, there is always a subsequent and lasting rush of violence and death. Vendettas last forever. The innocent are dying in the crossfire.
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 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. 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 elected officials want their jobs back and the latest “Operation Whatever” comes in and arrests the whole neighborhood and the cycle starts all over again.
Simply put, how it is that despite everything, there is nobody out there today who if they want any particular drug, not only can get it easily, but probably has some already. If we cannot keep drugs out of our 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. The joke on the streets is that you do not want to get arrested for drugs on the streets and go to prison because drugs are really expensive in prison.
Please do not misunderstand me. I do not bear the Attorney General or 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.
According to the press conference, another group of real bad guys is now safely behind bars and a neighborhood can start to rest easy. The more than two dozen arrested are now destined to spend a near eternity in some taxpayer funded hellhole. People supposedly can now breathe easier as the drug problem has been solved. With four kilos of cocaine suddenly off the streets, people should be unable to get stoned for at least another 4-5 hours.
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.
But, and this is the point: Every time you arrest a drug dealer, you create a job opening. Police keep making arrests, prosecutors keep prosecuting, and judges keep imprisoning. Demand, however, continues and fuels a substantial market vacuum.
So let the Attorney General and his task force explain how he intends to deal with the market demand and the vacuum created by recent arrests? What are their intentions when two competing organizations want to market their product in the same territory? My guess is that there will be more arrests and imprisonments.
I also predict an escalation in drug business violence. Prohibitionists will be the ones to blame for the increase in violence. Instead of working for a way to enable business disputes to be settled with high powered lawyers in court rooms, the unholy alliance between cops and robbers insist on a policy that leaves all sides no option but to use high powered weapons on street corners. Citizens in this county are now at great risk of death, destruction, shootings, violence; all of which will be directly correlated and caused by instability in the market created by these drug arrests.
How about some questions of the Attorney General: How much money was actually spent in the investigation and arrests? What was the cost of the sweep; personnel plus the cost of equipment and fuel. How much of that was overtime or resources diverted from murders, robberies, and rape? How many of the defendants will now need a lawyer, housing, processing through the system, Drug Court, use of court time and resources, medical 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 of those arrested will be able to lead productive lives after their contact with the criminal justice system is over? Was it all worth it?
Everybody wants a piece of the very lucrative drug market; including our government and police. Criminals and cops benefit financially from this war. Yet, they also know that the current policy is a failure. Despite MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS spent on this war over the past 35 years, they have not prevented the shootings, the neighborhood methlabs and drug houses, the overdoses, and the imprisonments. Most importantly they failed to educate our children to say "No". Criminals and cops need this fight to justify their own existence and to build their respective retirement plans.
This War against Americans has got to stop. Police tell me they are doing this to make all of us safer yet at the same time, they stand helpless while more and more of our kids are dying. These cops tell the public to be very afraid of the junkie who is jonesing. They tell us the gangs will be worse. Yet, have they stopped the junkies and their jonesing from killing? How much worse can the gangs get when they are already spraying automatic weapons randomly at your neighbors?
Police already admit publicly what we all know is true. That nothing they do; no amount of arrests or street corner justice is having any impact on drug use or availability. They know from experience that every dealer they arrest creates two more in his place, for every drug house they shut down, another is going to open. Not one of them will deny that they feel like the little Dutch boy with their fingers in the dyke. To them, they feel the frustration of trying to empty the ocean one teaspoon at a time. But, they will never admit it. It would be an act of "surrender"; in their minds, a demonstration of cowardice. They are so wrong. Bravery means doing the right thing; not what your testosterone dictates but what your mind and heart know is true. They know they have blood on their hands. Every night when they hang up their uniforms and return to normal life, they have flashbacks of the drug war experience and they suffer from the depression of feeling like they are failures.
We need cops to be cops; to fight crime, to help those who ask, and to stand that wall and keep us from each other. It is unfair to ask police officers to involve themselves in a situation that nobody wants them in, that is private and personal between consenting adults, and causes no harm to anyone or anything but arguably those who exercise their free will.
I am really sad; mostly because so many are so entrenched in the way things have been done for so long, that they cannot possibly consider an alternative. I bet nobody can even remember why we implemented these prohibitions in the first place. What I do know is that we are fighting a war now just because we have been fighting it for the past 35 years and we don’t know any other way other than to just keep fighting the war. To have to admit to ourselves that perhaps we made a bad decision, that we were wrong, that we wasted so much of our money and precious citizens' lives, ... to admit this was all in error requires an acknowledgement that we were wrong. Nothing is harder to do. Government cannot do this without great pain.
We were wrong. For every day we continue this policy, we are wrong. Each and every person now sitting in prison under this policy has wrongfully lost their lives. When a dollar is spent in this war, that same dollar is lost to your school and that is wrong. This whole thing needs a change. 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.
Change, however, is going to come from you and me. It needs to start in your heart. It needs to become part of the public discussion. Our politicians need to put the subject on the table.
Two dozen down; thirty million more to go.