To the People

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Former Baltimore Homicide Cop: Legalize It

A local crime website, Investigative Voice, has been running an interview conducted with a recently retired Baltimore homicide cop. It makes for good reading all around, but I'll just just share his opinions on the drug war.
What percentage of your murder cases are drug-related?

I’m willing to say at least 75 drug-related or dispute over something, or disrespect. I had one guy who shot someone, and I asked why did you shoot him? And he said “he gave me a hard look. He disrespected me.' How’s that..he gave me a hard look.

I just shook my head. A man murdered for a hard look.

It’s almost like you can't look at somebody. Even now, I see it when I’m in my truck, I am at a light, four or five people have rap on and are looking hard, and I say, how are you doing? And they don’t know what to think. They think I’m going to look back hard. They don’t know what to do.[...]

So there is a limit to what police can do? What do you think should change?

We need to take the profit out of the drug game.

Legalize drugs?

They made alcohol legal and look what happened. You take the profit out of drugs and think of what would happen with the crime rate. You can legalize certain drugs and if you want it you can go to Hopkins or University of Maryland Hospital to get it, you sign a waiver. Most people say crime will pick up elsewhere, there will be more robberies or whatever, but if you take the profit out of drugs you will see a drop in crime.

I think taking the profit motive out of drugs should be seriously considered, and I think they should look into it and do a study. When you look into it and do a study it’s alright to have people with Ph.D’s but you’re going to need some grassroots people too, you’re going to people from the street, you’re going to need to get everybody in on this study to make this decision.

We know drugs have destroyed this city, but we’ve haven’t changed how we fight crime, so it hasn’t gotten any better, not since I’ve been here. I talk to new officers and they ask me an important question, 'Let me ask you, Bradley, has it gotten any better since you started? And I say, 'No, it has not. '

Communities have just been ripped down by drugs, torn down bit by bit until all you have is a vacant lot. A city of empty lots, that what’s the drug war has bought us. Pennsylvania Avenue used to be a vibrant place. And now, after all these communities have been destroyed, people say, look at all these kids coming down to the Inner Harbor doing this and doing that. But they're just looking for something to do, where are they supposed to go? Can’t sit on the stoop in your neighborhood because you’ll get locked up, so they come downtown.
If we place a somewhat agreed-upon and most likely conservative figure on the Baltimore drug economy, we end up in the neighborhood just shy of $1 billion. Somewhere around $900 million. As the City Paper says in a recent piece about the drug economy, Shadow Players:
The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that in 2002 "accommodation and food service sales" in Baltimore were worth about $1 billion.

In other words, the drug trade generates a revenue stream comparable to the city's hotels and restaurants, an industry so important politically that the city government pledged $305 million in revenue bonds to build a downtown hotel that opened last year.
That's a lot of money to fight over and accounts for the single most dangerous part of the drug war in Baltimore. We can change policing and tactics that we use to fight drug crime; but until we address the $1 billion dollar question we'll still have a culture of violence and crime that has destroyed cities like Baltimore.

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