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January 17, 2005

Baltimore Police Admit Their Campaign Has Prompted More Violence

Today's Associated Press includes an article in which police officials actually acknowledge that their campaign against drug trafficking is the cause of increased violence. In Drug Killings Blamed as Baltimore Death Toll Swells, acting police commissioner Leonard Hamm said that "we are keeping with the same game plan [of]... putting pressure on drug dealers," but also that pressure by police against drug trafficking has led to dealers resorting to trying to collect debts more quickly and using violence to do so. Police spokesman Matt Jablow said they are prepared for more killings, and "we hope each month we will have fewer homicides than the previous month. "We have a good plan."

So far the results of this "good plan" are more violence. Lest anyone dismiss the dead as mere drug dealers who took their chances and had it coming, I will point out that we don't know that. There may have been ordinary addicts among those who were killed, or ordinary bystanders caught in the crossfire. Even if not, does anyone doubt that such violence has a debilitating impact on the quality of life and economic hopes of the areas in which it occurs? Isn't violence the foremost reason above all for pressure to act against drug dealing? Baltimore's police are responding to the woes associated with inner-city drug dealing with a plan that increases those woes, and instead of rethinking what they are doing are instead promising more of the same.

The Baltimore Sun also ran an article, this one unusually sophisticated for the mainstream media. In Killings' Link to Drug Crackdown Examined, Laura Vozzella refers to a speech by Baltimore's Health Commissioner, Peter Beilenson, a few years ago, in which he predicted that a crackdown on the drug supply along with providing more treatment and shrinking consumption that way could lead to increased violence as competitors fight over the decreasing market.

Councilman Jack Young told Vozella that "I don't know whether it's because they're cracking down and forcing them not to be selling their drugs, but what I do want to see is a decrease in the number of people being killed." And there is additional interesting commentary in the article, well worth a read.

Young's comments are far wiser than Hamm's reported reaction, at least so far. As Baltimore's former mayor, Kurt Schmoke, has pointed out, drug trade violence isn't about people getting high on drugs, it's about people fighting a war over money, it's about prohibition. Rather than chasing the drug dealers from place to place and prompting added violence in the process, legalization would be a better plan for Baltimore and elsewhere. Let's clean up the streets once and for all.

I saw this AP article in The Washington Post, and that is where my link points. The Post's letter to the editor information is available here. Newshawks are encouraged to post back here their sightings of the article in other publications and the appropriate letter to the editor info for those. The Sun's letter to the editor info is here.

- Dave Borden, DRCNet

Posted by dborden725 at January 17, 2005 09:33 AM

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My letter to the Post: (Don't let this dissuade you from sending your own!)

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I was dismayed by comments given by Baltimore's Acting Police Commissioner Leonard Hamm and Police Spokesman Matt Jablow in Drug Killings Blamed as Baltimore Death Toll Swells. Hamm acknowledged that pressure by police against drug trafficking has led to more violence as dealers try to collect debts more quickly and resort to violence in the process. But he is still "keeping with the same game plan [of]... putting pressure on drug dealers." Jablow said that police are prepared for more killings, and "we hope each month we will have fewer homicides than the previous month. We have a good plan."

So far the results of this "good plan" are more violence -- in Hamm's and Jablow's own words. Lest anyone dismiss the dead as mere drug dealers who took their chances and had it coming, I will point out that we don't know that -- there may have been ordinary addicts among those who were killed, or ordinary bystanders caught in the crossfire. Even if not, does anyone doubt that such violence has a debilitating impact on the quality of life and economic hopes of the areas in which it occurs? Isn't violence the foremost reason above all for pressure to act against drug dealing? Baltimore's police are responding to the woes associated with inner-city drug dealing with a plan that increases those woes, and instead of rethinking what they are doing are instead promising more of the same.

As Baltimore's former mayor, Kurt Schmoke, has pointed out, drug trade violence isn't about people getting high on drugs, it's about people fighting a war over money, it's about prohibition. Rather than chasing the drug dealers from place to place and prompting added violence in the process, legalization would be a better plan for Baltimore and elsewhere. Let's clean up the streets once and for all.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Posted by: David Borden at January 17, 2005 10:24 AM

My letter to the Sun:

Congratulations to The Sun for Laura Vozzella's insightful article, "Killings' link to drug crackdown examined." I was perturbed by comments given by Acting Police Commissioner Hamm to the Associated Press. While Hamm acknowledged that pressure by police against drug trafficking has led to more violence as dealers try to collect debts more quickly and resort to violence in the process, as AP reported, he is still "keeping with the same game plan [of]... putting pressure on drug dealers." Police spokesman Matt Jablow said that police are prepared for more killings, and "we hope each month we will have fewer homicides than the previous month. We have a good plan."

So far the results of this "good plan" are more violence -- in Hamm's and Jablow's own words. Lest anyone dismiss the dead as mere drug dealers who took their chances and had it coming, I will point out that we don't know that -- there may have been ordinary addicts among those who were killed, or ordinary bystanders caught in the crossfire. Even if not, does anyone doubt that such violence has a debilitating impact on the quality of life and economic hopes of the areas in which it occurs? Isn't violence the foremost reason above all for pressure to act against drug dealing? Baltimore's police are responding to the woes associated with inner-city drug dealing with a plan that increases those woes, and instead of rethinking what they are doing are instead promising more of the same.

As Baltimore's former mayor, Kurt Schmoke, has pointed out, drug trade violence isn't about people getting high on drugs, it's about people fighting a war over money, it's about prohibition. Rather than chasing the drug dealers from place to place and prompting added violence in the process, legalization would be a better plan for Baltimore and elsewhere -- let's clean up the streets once and for all. In the meantime, let's at least try something differently than is being done now -- as Councilman Jack Young told The Sun, "What I do want to see is a decrease in the number of people being killed."

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC
http://stopthedrugwar.org

Posted by: David Borden at January 17, 2005 10:25 AM

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