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SF "De Facto Drug Decriminalization" Sees Violent Crime Decline

Drug arrests in San Francisco have declined dramatically over the past two years without causing a spike in violent crime, calling into question the link traditionally made by law enforcement between drug law enforcement and reducing violent crime.

Drug arrests AND violent crime are down in San Francisco. (wikimedia.org)
According to figures compiled by the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco police made 9,505 drug arrests in 2009, but that number dropped dramatically to 5,834 last year. As of October 15, there had been only 3,751 drug arrests this year, leaving the city on pace to end the year with fewer than 5,000 if current trends continue. That means drug arrests declined 39% in 2010 over 2009 totals and are on track to decline another 25% this year

Meanwhile, violent crimes have also decreased during the same period, although not so dramatically. In 2009, police reported 7,391 violent crime arrests; a year later, that figure had dropped to 7,139. As of October 15 this year, police had logged 5,366 violent crimes (the figure last year at the same date was 5,715). If the current rate continues to year's end, the number of violent crimes should drop to somewhere near 7,000.

That's a 3% decrease in violent crime in 2010 and another 6% decrease this year. This even as drug arrest rates also plummet.

"This has been somewhat of a de facto decriminalization of drugs -- in other words, they're not being prosecuted," San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey told the Examiner. "And it does not appear that violent crime in San Francisco has risen, so it may say something about the necessity for the war on drugs."

Hennessy said he noticed a shift in 2010 after the police department's drug lab was embroiled in scandal and hundreds of drug cases were dropped. The jail population dropped dramatically then, possibly because of fewer arrests and prosecutions for drug crimes, he said.

Former San Francisco Police Chief and current District Attorney George Gascon told the Examiner that as police chief, he began focusing more on mid-level drug dealers and drug offenses associated with violent crimes, sending some minor drug possession cases to neighborhood and community courts. He said he is continuing that approach as district attorney.

Street level police said they were continuing to make low-level buy-bust and undercover operations, particularly near schools, but acknowledged that the department has less grant money for certain drug enforcement operations. Also, budget cuts have shrunk the force and resulted in less overtime.

"We're doing more with less," said Capt. Joe Garrity, whose district includes the Tenderloin, a drug dealing hotspot in the city. But drug arrests were declining there, too.

UC Santa Cruz professor of sociology and legal studies Craig Reinarman told the Examiner the majority of drug arrests are traditionally been for petty offenses, mostly marijuana. "The relationship between those arrests and violent crimes was always more tenuous than police like to let on," he said.

Hmmm… maybe San Francisco is on to something.

San Francisco, CA
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Monday, October 17

In an interview published in the New York Times, President Calderon said he believes that Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is in the United States. "He is not in Mexican territory, and I suppose that Chapo is in American territory," he said. Calderon also questioned why Guzman's wife wasn't detained when she gave birth at a Los Angeles area clinic in August.

Wednesday, October 19

In Arizona, an ICE officer was arrested for marijuana smuggling after a high-speed chase with authorities. Jason Alistair Lowery, 34, had been under investigation for more than a month after a known smuggler who had been arrested identified him as being involved in drug rips and in trafficking. He was arrested after agreeing to pick up 500 pounds of marijuana from a desert location.

Thursday, October 20

In Texas, the nephew of an imprisoned Gulf Cartel leader was arrested during a traffic stop in Port Isabel. Rafael Junior Cardenas Vela was charged with immigration and drug conspiracy charges in the operation, which was conducted by ICE. Rafael Cardenas allegedly admitted to being involved in large cocaine and marijuana shipments to the US. Additionally, a July 8 shootout near Brownsville is attributed to a Zeta attempt to capture or kill Rafael Cardenas.

In Monterrey, a car bomb attack was conducted against a military patrol which had been chasing suspected cartel members. No soldiers were wounded in the incident, which took place after they gave chase to a car with suspicious men on board during a patrol. Several other car bomb incidents have taken place in Mexico over the last year.

In Veracruz, eight bodies were found in the town of Paso de Viejas.

In Tecamac, Mexico State, a well-known local drug trafficker was arrested along with 10 of his bodyguards. Adrian Soria Ramirez, "El Hongo," had been leading a gang currently fighting for control of drug sales in several areas of the greater Mexico City area.

Saturday, October 22

In Durango, cartel activity led much of the population of the towns of Villa Ocampo and Los Nieves to lock themselves inside their homes when a convoy of armed men passed through the area. The local municipal police force fled to their station. Three men were abducted by the convoy and later found executed.

Sunday, October 23

In Sinaloa, the army raided an auto shop used by cartel members to bulletproof vehicles. Ten people were taken into custody and 16 vehicles were seized. Similar bulletproofing shops have been discovered in other parts of Mexico, notably Tamaulipas.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least 9 people were murdered. Among the dead was a jeweler who was shot dead in his home by two armed men, and one person who was decapitated.

Monday, October 24

In Tamaulipas, a Mexican army unit was deployed to the Frontera Chica area across the Rio Grande from Starr County, Texas. The soldiers, from Mexico's 105th Battalion, will patrol the Camargo, Miguel Aleman and Ciudad Mier areas in response to recent fighting in the area.

Tuesday, October 25

In Acapulco, authorities announced that they recently arrested a man and a woman and discovered an icebox with a human head and other remains in the car they were driving. The car was pulled over by federal police because it matched the description of a car used in a recent kidnapping. The female suspect, 19 year-old Damaris Gomez, allegedly is the leader of a group of assassins employed by a local criminal organization.

Editor's Note: We can no longer tally this year's drug war deaths in Mexico with accuracy. The figure for this year's deaths is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 8,100

TOTAL: > 42,000

Mexico

Cop Admits Planting Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quotas

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/newyorkmarijuanaarrests.png

Hmm, maybe the reason so many people still support the war on drugs isn’t because they’re stupid jerks. Perhaps they just haven’t yet had the pleasure of getting spontaneously framed, arrested, and jailed for made-up cocaine crimes concocted by dirty drug cops.

A former NYPD narcotics detective snared in a corruption scandal testified it was common practice to fabricate drug charges against innocent people to meet arrest quotas.

The bombshell testimony from Stephen Anderson is the first public account of the twisted culture behind the false arrests in the Brooklyn South and Queens narc squads, which led to the arrests of eight cops and a massive shakeup.

"As a detective, you still have a number to reach while you are in the narcotics division," he said.

NYPD officials did not respond to a request for comment. [NY Daily News]

What, did you think they were going to apologize? Because that would be a lot like admitting that it’s wrong to do these sorts of things. I can absolutely guarantee you that there are plenty of people in law enforcement who think that the worst thing about this whole episode is that it’s causing people to say unreasonable things about the cops.

I, on the other hand, am quite convinced that the worst thing about this mess is the part where they framed some random dudes for fake crimes. That is an act so extraordinarily corrupt, so corrosive to the concept of a free society, that it’s a wonder the politicians have yet to declare war on it.

Imagine for one second, at the risk of your head exploding, that despite the laws of economics, human nature and common sense, it somehow turned out to be the case that the vigorous enforcement of our drug laws actually led to a reduction in drug activity. Imagine that, and ask yourself what would happen if one day these quota-driven drug detectives couldn’t find enough dope dealers to drag downtown on drug charges. It chills the blood to imagine the multitude of malicious schemes that would emerge to ensure that the people whose job it is to put other people in prison are always busy doing just that.

NYPD Officers Regularly Plant Drugs on Innocent People, Former Detective Testifies

Drug Policy Alliance

www.drugpolicy.org

For Immediate Release: October 13, 2011
Contact: Tony Newman or Anthony Papa

 

Former NYPD Detective Testifies that Police Regularly Plant Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quota

DPA Statement: Drug War Corrupts Police, Ruins Lives, Destroys Trust Between Law Enforcement and Community

 

Stephen Anderson, a former NYPD narcotics detective, testified yesterday that he regularly saw police plant drugs on innocent people as a way to meet arrest quotas. Mr. Anderson is testifying under cooperation with prosecutors after he was busted for planting cocaine on four men in a bar in Queens. "It was something I was seeing a lot of, whether it was from supervisors or undercovers and even investigators," said Anderson.

"One of the consequences of the war on drugs is that police officers are pressured to make large numbers of arrests, and it's easy for some of the less honest cops to plant evidence on innocent people," said gabriel sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The drug war inevitably leads to crooked policing – and quotas further incentivize such practices."

The NYPD has also come under heat recently for arresting more than 50,000 people last year for low-level marijuana offenses – 86% of whom are black and Latino – making marijuana possession the number one offense in the City. Most of these arrests are the result of illegal searches by the NYPD, as part of its controversial stop-and-frisk practices. Marijuana was decriminalized in New York State in 1977 – and that law is still on the books. Smoking marijuana in public or having marijuana visible in public, however, remains a crime.  Most people arrested for marijuana possession are not smoking in public, but simply have a small amount in their pocket, purse or bag. Often when police stop and question a person, they say "empty your pockets" or "open your bag." Many people comply, even though they’re not legally required to do so. If a person pulls mari­juana from their pocket or bag, it is then "open to public view." The police then arrest the person.

Last month, in a rare admission of NYPD wrongdoing, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly ordered all officers to stop charging people with misdemeanor marijuana violations based on improper searches. The new policy directive comes on the heels of a 2011 report released by DPA highlighting the enormous costs of marijuana arrests in New York and a public pressure campaign by advocacy groups and elected officials.

"Whether the issue is planting drugs (like this instance) or falsely charging people for having marijuana in public view (as is the case with the majority of marijuana arrests in NYC) the drug war corrupts police, ruins lives, and destroys trust between law enforcement and the communities that they serve," said sayegh.

Location: 
New York, NY
United States

Ray Kelly Heard "Allegations of Improper [Marijuana] Arrests" Oh Really?

Ailsa Chang, the WNYC reporter who broke the recent New York Police Department marijuana arrests story, blogged about comments by Commissioner Ray Kelly at a news conference this week explaining why he issued the order to his officers:

"Police Commissioner Ray Kelly says he had heard multiple allegations that his officers were skirting the law when charging people for misdemeanor marijuana possession — but he says he doesn't know if they are true."
 

I suppose "multiple allegations" is one of way describing the in-depth report published on the topic in 2008, the report on the fiscal costs of the arrests published this year, or the extensive discussion of the arrests that's taken place in the media for much of this year. Oh, let's not forget the bill filed this year in Albany for the specific purpose of stopping such arrests.

Of course the nearly 12-fold sudden increase in the number of marijuana possession arrests was no tip-off that anything was up:
 

 

And to be fair, the New York Times didn't call for a federal Dept. of Justice investigation of the arrests until last Monday, after Kelly issued the order, so that doesn't count. (But it's a good idea.)

No, there's no reason why the nearly ten-year commissioner of the department, who had been commissioner for another two years prior to that, and who has worked in important positions in the department for a total of more than 30 years, could have known to look into this before now. There was no reason to suspect anything may have been amiss until an "allegation was made" recently. None at all -- he had no way to know! I believe him -- I really do.

Location: 
New York, NY
United States

Press Release: Elected Officials and Advocates Applaud Change to Marijuana Arrest Policy, Pledge Further Reform

For Immediate Release:

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, And Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Jumanne D. Williams Joined by Advocates in Front of Police Headquarters to Applaud Change in Policy for Marijuana Arrests

Policy Shift by NYPD Could End Tens of Thousands of Arrests in NYC, Save Tens of Millions of Dollars and Reduce the Funneling of Young Men of Color into the Criminal Justice System

Elected Officials and Advocates Affirm Support for Legislation in Albany that Standardizes Penalties for Marijuana Possession Offenses to Permanently Curb These Arrests Statewide

New York, NY– Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, joined by advocates from the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, VOCAL NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance, gathered in front of One Police Plaza today to celebrate an internal order issued by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to all precinct commanding officers to stop arresting New Yorkers for small quantities of marijuana if the marijuana was not in plain view.

In 2010, over 54,000 people – mostly black or Latino – were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York State. Over 50,000 of those arrests occurred in New York City, making it the most frequent arrest citywide. On Monday, September 19th, responding to mounting public pressure from elected officials and advocates, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order that clarified existing marijuana possession laws, instructing officers not to arrest people for marijuana in public view when complying with an officer's demand to "empty their pockets". This change could lead to the reduction of tens of thousands of arrests in New York City.

"The internal directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a positive step toward a more equitable criminal justice system that treats everyone the same, regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. “The NYPD's aggressive stop and frisk practices that have lead to the explosion of improper marijuana arrests in communities of color have helped poison the relationship between the community and police. We will continue to push for the passage of state legislation that changes public view possession of small quantities of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.”

Commissioner Kelly’s operations order can be made permanent, and apply to all of New York State, by passing A.7620 (Jeffries) and S.5187 (Grisanti, R-Buffalo). This legislation would standardize penalties for marijuana possession offences, protect New Yorkers from illegal searches, save taxpayer dollars, and bring down the disproportionately high number of arrests among black and Latino men for marijuana-related crimes by eliminating the misdemeanor charge.

"The New York City Police Commissioner did the right thing when he issued his directive not to arrest people who produce small amounts of marijuana in public view when compelled by police," said  New York State Senator Mark Grisanti (R- Buffalo). "Unfortunately, this order does not impact people in Buffalo who experience these same situations every day. We can make this order permanent and have it apply statewide by passing legislation in Albany that will help put an end to these racially biased, fiscally wasteful, and unlawful arrests for small amounts of marijuana."

Council Member Mark-Viverito introduced a City Council resolution that Council Member Williams is sponsoring that supports the passage of this legislation.

“The directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a huge victory for communities of color in the city of New York, who for years have been disproportionately targeted for small-time marijuana arrests” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “Finally, the NYPD will be respecting the intent of the State law that de-criminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago, and our youth will no longer face arrest for this small-time offense.  I personally raised this issue with Commissioner Kelly at two different Council hearings earlier this year as a major concern for my district and communities like mine across the city.  I applaud the Commissioner for acting on the concerns that so many of us in the Council and beyond have been expressing about this policy.  We will continue to closely monitor how stop and frisk policies are carried out in our city and to advocate for the passage of the State legislation introduced by Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Jeffries.”

Marijuana has been decriminalized since 1977, making possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a violation, punishable by a $100 fine, not arrest and jail. However, possessing or burning marijuana in public view is a criminal offense punishable by arrest and jail.

"Commissioner Kelly has finally answered the alarm sounded by advocates and our communities,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “However, it will take continued vigilance on all of our parts to make sure that officers are patrol are heeding the message and bringing an end to the racial inequality and fiscal waste of this disturbing trend of illegal arrests. We also must continue to push for the bipartisan state legislation that will ensure this order is made permanent for all New Yorkers.”

Since 1996, the New York City Police Department has made over 535,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Although the “public view” provision was meant to criminalize public display and smoking of marijuana, most of these arrests were not for that offense, but instead the result of complying with an officer's demand to disclose contraband or from a police search and being improperly charged for "marijuana in public view" instead of the non-criminal violation offense. Although marijuana use is higher among whites, 86% of those arrested for marijuana possession were young Black and Latino youth.

Advocates who have worked for years to address the out of control marijuana arrests by NYPD weighed in on the significance of the recent directive.

“It must be noted that these spurious arrests are largely a result of a racially biased and improper stop and frisk practice that often result in illegal searches, and this order does not address this injustice,” said Kyung Ji Rhee, director of  Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. “We will continue to hold NYPD accountable on this front.”

“It’s about time!,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “I just want to give a belated thanks to Ray Kelly for agreeing at last to comply with both the spirit and letter of the marijuana decriminalization law that New York enacted back in 1977.”

"We can't talk about marijuana arrests without bringing up why they happen in the first place - stop and frisks and illegal searches that are targeted in communities of color," said Alfredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer for VOCAL-NY who has been arrested in the past for marijuana possession. "That won't necessarily change as a result of this new policy, but it should. Mayor Bloomberg must also seal the records of people who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana in the past given that he knows how difficult it can make finding a job or housing."

# # #

Location: 
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY
United States

NYPD to Obey Law

In case you haven't seen our story from last Friday about the New York City Police Department's decision to have its police officers to start obeying the state's decades-old marijuana decriminalization law -- or WNYC's report, which broke the story before any reformers had heard about it, complete with a copy of Commissioner Ray Kelly's order -- check it out. There's also a great set of reports by the Village Voice. It is huge news and an unexpectedly swift victory, if it's for real.http://stopthedrugwar.org/trenches/2011/sep/27/press_release_elected_officials

NYC City Hall
The basic outline of what's happened in the city is that New York State in the 1970s made possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a ticketable "violation," rather than a misdemeanor as before, unless the marijuana was in "public view." But in 1986, under the Rudy Giuliani administration, and continuing under Mayor Bloomberg, police began to violate the law -- constantly, every day -- by telling people to empty their pockets or take out their marijuana, which had not been in public view, and then arresting people for the public view offense which police themselves had manufactured. Marijuana possession arrests went up by a factor of ten, almost all of the arrestees African American or Latino.

The New York Times called today for the US Dept. of Justice and New York lawmakers to investigate the corrupt practice that has allowed this to happen to upwards of half a million people since then. As the Times aptly commented, Kelly's memo is "too little, too late."

A press conference in front of NYPD headquarters at 1:30pm this afternoon with lawmakers and advocates will commend the change in policy and call for passage of a bill currently in the legislature to repeal the possession in open view offense and thereby secure this change in policy for the future. [Update: Post-rally press release here.]

I have an additional suggestion: Expunge all marijuana possession convictions that resulted from arrests made in New York City between 1996 and today. Most of them appear to have been made on false pretenses, but there's no practical way to review all of them to find the relatively few that were not. Criminal convictions, even for misdemeanor drug possession, can be a lifetime barrier to employment, college aid, professional licenses, all manner of problems. They can also lead to harsher treatment by the system for other future trouble that might otherwise be considered more minor, a part of the so-called "prison pipeline." It's not over when the jail time is completed or the fine paid, and half a million people in New York City are victims in this way of this persistent NYPD misconduct.

NYPD Ordered to Stop Marijuana Possession Arrests

New York City may soon shed its infamous reputation as the pot bust capital of the world. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal order on September 19 to the NYPD telling officers they can no longer arrest people for marijuana possession in public view if the marijuana was not in public view before officers either searched the person and produced it or the person produced it after an officer's demand that he empty his pockets.

NYC City Hall
Although New York state has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the NYPD has made a practice of stopping people -- mainly young people of color -- on the streets, searching them or demanding they empty their pockets, then charging them with possession in public view. Unlike simple pot possession, which is only a ticketable offense, possession in public view is an arrestable offense that typically results in a day-long stay in jail before the defendant can appear before a judge.

New York City and the NYPD have come under increasingly heat over the practice, which has resulted in tens of thousands of marijuana in public view arrests each year in recent years. The policy began under the administration of then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but has continued under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who famously admitted having smoked pot and enjoying it.

Both city council members and state representatives have recently taken up the call to end the practice. A bipartisan bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view was recently introduced in Albany.

"Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests," Kelly wrote in the internal order delivered to commanders this week. "At issue is whether the circumstances under which uniformed members of the service recover small amounts of marihuana ... from subjects in a public place support the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree.

"The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marihuana pursuant to a search of subject's person or upon direction to the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana. Such circumstances may constitute a violation of [the decriminalization statute], not [the possession in public view statute], a Class B misdemeanor.

"To support a charge [under the possession in public view statute], the public display of marijuana must be an activity taken under the suspect's own volition. Thus, uniformed members of the service may not charge the individual with [violation of the possession in public view statute], if the marihuana recovered was displayed to the public view at the officer's discretion."

So will New York City marijuana arrest numbers now plummet?

New York City, NY
United States

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed around 40,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, September 15

In Philadelphia, authorities announced the dismantling of a drug trafficking network with ties to the Sinaloa Cartel. In total, five people were arrested, three of them in Pennsylvania and two in Texas. Ten kilos of cocaine, cash and weapons were also confiscated.

In Matamoros, fire fights and blockades were reported in several parts of the city, effectively shutting the city down. Residents posted pictures of hijacked buses parked across streets and city officials confirmed that incidents occurred on the highway to Reynosa. It is unclear whether any fatalities occurred during the incidents.

Wednesday, September 16

In Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, a car bomb exploded during Mexican Independence Day celebrations. No injuries were reported.

In Querandaro, Michoacan, Independence Day celebrations were canceled after a group of 40 heavily armed gunmen arrived in the town’s main square and ordered the crowd to disperse or be attacked, causing people to flee in panic or hide inside government buildings. No injuries were reported.

Saturday, September 17

In Huamuxtitlan, Guerrero, the body of a missing federal congressman and his driver were found in a river. PRI congressman Moises Villanueva had been missing since September 4th, when the two men disappeared after leaving a party held by a fellow party member. Mexican media reported that both men had been shot and appear to have been dead for some time.

In the Monterrey suburb of Santa Catarina, authorities announced that 44 police officers have been taken into custody on suspicion of working as lookouts for and protecting the Zetas. At least 69 others are still under investigation.

Sunday, September 18

In Mexico City, a high-ranking Sinaloa Cartel leader was arrested. Jose Carlos Moreno Flores is thought to have been the head of the Sinaloa Cartel in Chilapancingo, Guerrero, and is known to have had ties to drug traffickers in Guatemala and Costa Rica. He is also thought to have played a key part in turf wars fought over Chilpancingo between the Sinaloa Cartel and rival groups.

Monday, September 19

In Veracruz, 32 prison inmates escaped from three facilities in simultaneous jail breaks. 14 of the inmates have already been recaptured and the Mexican military has deployed to search for the remaining 18. All 17 prisons in Veracruz are being checked to ascertain whether any other prisoners are missing.

Tuesday, September 20

In Michoacan, the army captured a high-ranking member of the Knights Templar Organization. Saul Solis Solis, 49, is a former police chief and at one time was a congressional candidate for the Green Party, finishing fourth in the 2009 congressional race for his home district. He is also suspected of being heavily involved in narcotics cultivation and meth production, as well as in multiple attacks on federal forces, including a May 2007 attack that killed an officer and four soldiers.

In Veracruz, the bodies of 35 people were dumped on a busy street near a shopping center by a group of heavily armed gunmen who pointed weapons at passing motorists. According to Mexican media sources, most of the gunmen were identified as having criminal records and links to organized crime groups. A banner left with the bodies claimed that the dead were Zetas. Some of the victims had their heads covered with black plastic bags and appeared to have been tortured. One of the bodies has been identified as a police officer who went missing two weeks ago.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least eight people were murdered in several incidents across the city. In one incident, three teenagers were walking along a street when they were intercepted by a group of gunmen, who killed two and severely wounded the third. In another incident, a 32-year old mother of 8 was shot dead outside her home.

[Editor's Note: We can no longer accurately enumerate the number of deaths in the Mexican drug wars this year. The Mexico City newspaper El Universal had been running a tally on which we relied, but it stopped. Our estimate for this year's death toll is just that -- an estimate.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011: (approx.): 7,200

Mexico

Mexico

A Drug Arrest Every 19 Seconds, Says Latest US Data [FEATURE]

More than 1.6 million people were arrested for drug offenses in the US last year, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report 2010, and more than half of them were for marijuana. That's a drug arrest every 19 seconds, 24 hours a day, every day last year. The numbers suggest that despite "no more war on drugs" rhetoric emanating from Washington, the drug war juggernaut is rolling along on cruise control.

Overall, 1,638,846 were arrested on drug charges in 2010, up very slightly from the 1,633,582 arrested in 2009. But while the number of drug arrests appears to be stabilizing, they are stabilizing at historically high levels. Overall drug arrests are up 8.3% from a decade ago.

Marijuana arrests last year stood at 853,838, down very slightly from 2009's 858,408. But for the second year in a row, pot busts accounted for more arrests than  all other drugs combined, constituting 52% of all drug arrests in 2010. Nearly eight million people have been arrested on pot charges since 2000.

The vast majority (88%) off marijuana arrests were for simple possession, with more than three-quarters of a million (750,591) busted in small-time arrests. Another 103,247 people were charged with sale or manufacture, a category that includes everything from massive marijuana smuggling operations to persons growing a single plant in their bedroom closets.

The stabilization of drug arrests at record high levels comes as the FBI reports all other categories of crime are dropping. Violent crime was down overall, with murder decreasing by 4.2% and robberies by 10.0%, while property crime was also down overall, with burglary and larceny declining by more than 2% and motor vehicle theft and arson down by more than 7%.

Drug arrests were the single largest category of arrests, accounting for more than 10% of all arrests in the country. They were followed by drunk driving arrests (1.41 million) and larceny arrests (1.27 million). More than three times as many people were arrested for drugs than for all violent crimes combined (552,000) and nearly as many as for all property crimes combined (1.643 million).

African-Americans continue to be arrested for drug offenses in disproportionate numbers. Blacks accounted for 31.8% of all drug arrests last year, while according to the US Census Bureau, they constitute only 12.6% of the national population.

[Visit the Drug War Facts Crime section for updated tables presenting arrest data from 1980 through the present.]

The high drug arrest numbers were grist for the mill for drug war critics.

"This shows that, contrary to what Obama and Kerlikowske say, the war on drugs is not over," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. While conceding that the vast majority of drug arrests are conducted by state and local law enforcement, "the Obama administration sets the tone," he argued. "Kerlikowske said he ended the war on drugs—not the federal war on drugs—but federal money absolutely subsidizes state and local drug arrests by funding programs like the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program and the COPS program. They are supposed to be setting national policy, but they're not doing a very good job of leading by example."

"Since the declaration of the 'war on drugs' 40 years ago we've arrested tens of millions of people in an effort to reduce drug use," noted Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop who now heads the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "The fact that cops had to spend time arresting another 1.6 million of our fellow citizens last year shows that it simply hasn't worked. In the current economy we simply cannot afford to keep arresting three people every minute in the failed 'war on drugs. If we legalized and taxed drugs, we could not only create new revenue in addition to the money we'd save from ending the cruel policy of arresting users, but we'd make society safer by bankrupting the cartels and gangs who control the currently illegal marketplace."

While national drug reform groups had harsh words for the policies leading to the overall drug arrest figures, marijuana reformers were equally critical when it came to the herb and the arrests it generates.

"Today, as in past years, the so-called 'drug war' remains fueled by the arrests of minor marijuana possession offenders, a disproportionate percentage of whom are ethnic minorities," said NORML deputy director Paul Armentano. "It makes no sense to continue to waste law enforcements' time and taxpayers' dollars to arrest and prosecute Americans for their use of a substance that poses far fewer health risks than alcohol or tobacco."

"It's pretty obvious that we continue to spend billions a year arresting nearly a million people for marijuana related crime, yet use had not fallen dramatically," said Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "That shows that this is just a waste of time and money. It's really disingenuous for the Obama administration and the drug czar to say they are concentrating on public health measures and harm reduction and moving away from law enforcement, and then release numbers that show that was not the case, that the arrest rates are staying the same."

Fox noted that pot arrests accounted for 5.7% of all arrests nationwide. "If the drug czar says we can't arrest our way out of the drug problem, then why are we spending one-twentieth of our law enforcement resources arresting people for nonviolent, victimless crimes?" he asked. "We could be using those resources for solving rapes and murders."

More than a decade of drug reform efforts have managed to slow what once seemed to be endless annual increases in drug arrests in the US, but stabilizing at around 1.6 million drug busts a year is not victory, only the first step in putting the brakes on the drug war juggernaut. Now, it's time to start concentrating on bringing it to a screeching halt.

Washington, DC
United States

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