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Structural Change Also Needed to Stop Drug Trade Violence in Besieged Community

Submitted by David Borden on
Following the life-without-parole murder convictions of three ringleaders of the Chester, Pennsylvania "Boyle Street Boys," an editorial in the DelcoTimes called on the community to "unite to defeat the criminals." The operation sounds pretty ugly. According to the editorialist, Andre Cooper and brothers Jamain and Vincent Williams ran a lucrative cocaine operation in the Highland Gardens section of Chester until 2003 and "[f]or years... depended on the "Snitch & Die" mentality to ensure the silence of those who witnessed their illegal drug and weapons business... One of their murder victims was a teenage drug dealer whom the gang members suspected of being a police informant... Another was a federal witness, a 33-year-old mother of two, who was executed in her sister’s car the day before she was going to testify against gang members. Her own cousins were among those who plotted her killing." I wish that passion, even passion combined with action, could achieve the worthy goals the Times is supporting. Some of the community plans could certain do so good; according to the editorial, "[p]art of the strategy is to utilize the Smedley school as fully as possible in its new role as a community center, providing a positive alternative to crime for city youth." Unfortunately, the source of the problem in the largest sense is a structural one that can be really be solved only by changing the structure. That structure is prohibition of drugs. Just as alcohol prohibition increased urban violence and gave the Mafia great power, today's drug laws enabled Cooper, Williams and Williams to become players in organized crime and encouraged them to act in monstrous ways. The Times rightfully regards their future behind bars as a "miserable fate." Sadly, too many young people view prison or early death as inevitable, and may still see the trio as role models. Programs and community outreach can do some good, maybe a lot of good, but ultimately are limited to reaching and succeeding with people one by one. One by one in the end will leave some people out -- enough to continue terrorizing the neighborhood. Only drug legalization can fix the structural problem of crime and violence fueled by prohibition.Neil Peirce discussed this in a speech in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, that was covered by the Wilmington Journal. I can't seem to find the article online -- an opinion piece he wrote about work done in Syracuse by our friends at ReconsiDer: Forum on Drug Policy can be found here. Delco Times seems to be an online venue for both the Delaware County Daily and Sunday Times. I don't know which paper ran the editorial. Letters to the editor can go to managing editor Linda DeMeglio, [email protected].

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