Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Right in Front of Me, Allegedly

Last month I had an exciting hour allegedly waiting for the bus. I allegedly was watching alleged drug deals from across the alleged street. It was allegedly unbelievable. The three jokesters were on a major street, in a high traffic shopping area, with what appeared to be, allegedly, Road Construction both ways.

This was why I was waiting so long for that darn bus. But it was not a waste of time. Oh, I was positively nostalgic over my alleged years in the allegedly crack-drenched neighborhood in RiverTown.

Top-Down versus Bottom-Up
The area is also a target of city-initiated (top-down) rather than owner-driven (bottom-up) gentrification. Therefore, new apartments and condos sit side-by-side with better quality assisted housing (but still projects).  The shopping center is supposed to keep this gentrification from being a doomed enterprise. And it's a good idea. It's hard to live in a neighborhood with no services like dry cleaners, groceries, or a hardware store.

The big-box stores and food franchises have gone in, but there are No Local Businesses Interested--as in, the dry cleaners or hardware. They can't afford the losses, or the efforts for loss-prevention. This despite the city subsidy. A grocery store chain will be moving in, though--one of the final pieces on local services. That's what I hear.

Let's Make a Deal!
Because of the mixed, slow traffic and exceedingly public venue, it seemed like the stupidest place on earth to allegedly undertake illegal transactions. However, I think it was another two-step arrangement, where the money is separated from delivery of the product. So the slow movement of heavy traffic actually aided them. They would allegedly catch the pedestrian clientele on the way-social interaction. Drivers would allegedly pull over for a chat, in the still-extant parking lane, and then move on. All the uninvolved drivers were just trying to figure out how to make the light, so they paid no attention.  Good thing we were all in such an allegedly good mood.

My pictures do not bear out any of my allegations. Perhaps this is a different scene altogether? Maybe these gentlemen are just taking in the sun and talking to pretty girls when possible. Could be the only rule they are breaking is the 'no loitering' sign that I allege was there, although not pictured.

My favorite part was watching when they had no alleged business to conduct. Laughing, pulling out their money in a way I would never do, counting it and laughing again, then shoving it back in their pockets.  I would have paid the price of whatever just to hear what they were saying.

Of course the neighbors know. I scanned the building's balconies: they were family-style. Nice, in other words, with plants, furniture, tricycles.

So I started thinking what architecture had to do with the tipping point for crime in this building.

Straight, Narrow Hallways--Limited Exit
Drug syndicates on this low-level do have some kind of loyalty to each other, and physical strength, but mostly they have numbers. Loyalty sometimes breaks down under outside scrutiny or pressure. But I don't believe it breaks down inside the building. Between the connections, the annoyance of living next door to somebody who will be angry for years, and the fear factor, it doesn't take much to intimidate the entire building.

An elevator is a trap, and so is a staircase. A balcony could be. And there's maximum three exits. You can cover those with six to nine guys. Or three guys and two spotters. Piece of cake to control the whole building.

So wouldn't be an accident of placement for these guys to be at the Front Entrance. It seems stupidly obvious to traffick there, and yet it shows 'ownership'. It keeps the neighbors in line, and the neighbors must be kept in line. Heck, even I was toeing the line. I had no wish to be allegedly shot while allegedly taking pictures, or causing the bystander with an allegedly broken foot standing next to me to be in some allegedly unequal cross-fire.

This is a nice building with recent renovation.
I know that tearing down projects exports crime to wherever these residents go. The business alliance can remain, transfer, and even extend with this movement of people. I know that some of the most gang-riddled areas are neighborhoods full of single family residences.

I am left in a quandary, of course, when looking for a solution. In the meantime, those three guys are still allegedly counting their alleged rolls of soft and allegedly planning their next big party with the alleged profits.

My bus came. I managed to take a couple pictures from the window, when it seemed safe for me and everybody else to take them. I'm kind of relieved they are such bad shots. They're certainly not evidence of anything. Three guys, taking the air in front of their building. It is more in the way of an alleged memento.

Besides architecture, I thought about labor hours. You know there is a sense, from Freakonomics and elsewhere, that drug dealing is not profitable as an hourly wage. But the demands on the time are not the same as they are at a fast-food job. Freakonomics authors Stephen Levitt and Paul Dubner may have missed part of the point (see short funny lecture in previous post).

What do I learn from this?  How does it advance a solution or formulate a strategy? I am still thinking that through. Because it's possible that city planners have done the best-faith effort here possible. And yet, allegedly, here we are, with low-wage crime and terrified or complicit neighbors.


Christopher said...

My solution rests in making the entire enterprise unprofitable in a similar way that you don't see too many people making their own cigarettes or brewing beer to sell from street corners. Of course, the law of unintended consquences suggests that if such a solution were in place, these entrepreneurs would find something else. But either way, I don't think there is a solution for them. Any type of solution needed to take place two to three decades ago when they were in diapers. We could start with their babies now, and it would be a start. But as I've said before, we have to start thinking on a systemic level.

Bob G. said...

It never ceases to amaze me at the marvelous grasp you have on a situation.
And I LOVE all the "alleged" references...LOL!

I hear this all the time on the media when the police KNOWLINGLY catch a perp who has been proven to have committed a crime (witnesses make that all so possible), and they STILL say "alleged"...
(keeps mistrials to a minimum, I guess)

These bottom-feeding dealers have indeed "marked their territory", much like a common cur pisses up against a fire hydrant.
And yet, if the neighbors showed backbone, these thuigs would up and move elsewhere.
It's the old:
"give 'em an inch, and they'll take the whole damn neighborhood" gig with them.

Be nice to pass this onto local law-enforcement just to see how THEY handle it.

I see things like this almost daily...and we're on a residential street, nicely tree-lined.

No "alleged" stuff here...I KNOW what they're doing.
I've seen it and taken pictures of it.
Even got a good collar out of one with a well-timed call to dispatch.

Dealers use our alleys between streets as a traffic area...easy in, easy out...straight run.
Ditto for our street layout here.

I also maintain they (the undesirables) want US out of OUR house with good's got a commanding view up and down both streets for almost a block in every direction.
Make a damn fine drug house in that regard.
I like it because I can keep an eye on THEM.
It does work both ways,

And with the number of vacant houses and overgrown properties, you'd be amazed at what goes on that those who SHOULD be seeing all this are not seeing.
Used to call that SURVEILLANCE.

You've provided some excellent observations on a scene that is all too often repeated along our streets across the nation...every single day.

Economics be damned in this case.
These perps pay no taxes, use up resources for the really needy, and take anything else they can get their paws on.
They are the ultimate predators.
They never give anything back to society...except trouble, angst, and worry.
Be nice if OUR lives could be devoid of such trappings, hmm?

(sorry about the soapboxing...)

Fantastic post.
Keep those hits coming!
(and stay safe)

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
In one of the gang videos I uploaded, the people there are making sock wine to sell--as well as consume. It's a prison-learned cottage industry. I think it is in the Crips videos.

As far as I am concerned, the work of Paul Collier on international relations/civil war describes a lot of this also. The crack economy tells us that there IS money to be made. I am not sure which systemic changes you are advocating, but I would love to know.

As you say, the law of unintended consequences keeps showing up in our fight against crime and in public assistance. That is partly what we are dealing with now, as the money in the slums IS public assistance money.

Where do we go from here? I would like to see people think about these things very differently than they do now.

Thanks for a great comment.
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob,
I'm glad you had the LOL!

I'm also glad to get a confirmation on "terrain dictating crime patterns." I also see that your insistence on "blooming where you're planted" has become part of the greater good.

As to the economics: you are right that economics does not teach virtue and an end to predation. However, it describes predation pretty well, and gets (sometimes) past the language of grievance on both sides.

No one is happy with for example public assistance--they want either "more" or "less". I think designing a better economic landscape might get more people out of the assistance model and the unofficial and/or grossly illegal economy.

I am not nearly the authority on this I would like to be, but I keep trying.

As always, a thought-provoking comment! I appreciate your visits here very much.

Ann T.

meleah rebeccah said...

Allegedly, I saw a corner of a street similar to that in New Brunswick, NJ where alleged drug deals went down right in plain sight - allegedly!

Ann T. said...

Dear meleah,
Ah-hah! This proves that alleged crack is allegedly everywhere!

Ann T.

The Observer said...

Ann T:
I was allegedly laughing my face off at your post!

In my neighborhood, we had (two)alleged drug houses, both groups moved (they were well behaved, but just had lots of visitors and mysterious sources for apparent spending money...) and one alleged meth house that was eventually busted by the PD. After the bust, the house was allegedly set on fire (the fire was real, the arson, alleged). The alleged dealer's mother (was she alleged too?) owned the home. Eventually, either she fixed it or sold it, because now it seems to have regular people living in it.

Oh, this is addictive!

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
How frightening for you, to have arson in your neighborhood. I remember it well.

The sad truth is, we neighbors do see it all. We are the best source of information. And yet, we rarely see enough to make the accusation/allegation stick. Those nearest and dearest to the perpetrators are the ones who have the key to the whole mess.

In the meantime, we are neighborhood watch! Allegedly.

I did have so much fun with this post, but I also worried over it too. (That's me, all right).

Have a great evening,
Ann T.

BobKat said...

Excellent "alleged" report for crimes in alleged progress... you are a very good writer!

I lived in Boston 6 years... I know all about what goes on.

I may in the minority when I say: "it's not a crime until people are hurt"... legalize and tax, and use those dollars for harm-reduction, and police man-power to aggressively target dangerous people. Increase access to mental health, but to not step on personal liberty or freedom, provided no one gets hurt.

Some drugs hurt people in and by themselves... those drugs need to be controlled, but then, we're not doing such a great job with tobacco - myself a smoker - I see it as an allegedly "safe" stepping stone to legalized suicide. If, allegedly my life sucked, which I won't say, but if it did.

What you witnessed won't go away under our present system of justice... and harm-reduction. Expect illegal drug sales to increase in fact, with our current mud-stuck economy.

Some prohibition is necessary... but much of what we prohibit today causes much more harm, and threat to our society than if we were to concentrate more to what makes people happy, content, and relaxed, and I don't mean several shots of whiskey, unless, that's your "drug of choice", allegedly.

Ann T. said...

Dear BobKat,
I am always interested in your point of view on this question. One thing that concerns me though, is the notion of the victimless crime. I have a "behind the door" view of what that means in the case of alcohol. This a legal and supposedly mellowing substance.

But alcohol at least has legal concentrations. As a distilled product, the science can be more exact. What are we to do with a plant that can be raised with more or less fertilizer or water, and is available in new breeds all the time? I think the powders can be tested for purity and strength far more easily than the raw plant material. I am not a chemist however.

I do agree that we need to concentrate on the most harmful stuff and people first. Unfortunately, the shipping paths for many of these substances is the same, although the sources and manufacturers differ greatly. You could say it is shipping that makes the criminal network.

It is a huge sticky wicket. Thank you for giving me some points to think on! Have a great day tomorrow!

Ann T.

BobKat said...

RE: "But alcohol at least..."

Great question! I'll be dealing with the question in the next couple posts on my blog; but in the meantime, an answer. Alcohol in whatever form is manufactured - good manufacturing yields better product. Like cheap beer or whiskey or the expensive stuff. People make these products.

With plants, people seek to control nature, and in the case of cannabis, they strive for less "drunk" and more high. Or they strive for better pain relief. Or less high, more relaxing. There are so many variations... where alcohol has but one... drink a little and relax, drink too much get drunk.

As far as I can speak, re: cannabis again, the more you use the higher you don't get. The better the cannabis, the less needed. Also, there are at present to components of cannabis, and their balance makes the effect. They are: THC and Cannabidiol. The first is what gets most of the attention, but it by itself would be extremely depressing to use. But in combination, as is naturally found in cannabis, it works to produce the popular medical and recreational effects. The right growing practice yeilds the product that best suits the purpose.

Although one can find cannabis that would "blow them away"... it's still not the same as something like cocaine, which is man-made manufactured from coca leaf. In fact coca leaf itself is a modest stimulant... cocaine on the other hand, unlike cannabis or alcohol and tobacco are or can be highly physically addictive.

No matter how one produces cannabis... if it's not available, people don't go through physical withdrawal... they miss it. Like a friend.

Not sure I answered your question, just saying... growing a plant isn't always about how "out of it one can get". It's more like wine, which depends on what grapes are grown how and where and from what parent.

RE: Hard Drugs... their chemical properties make them very easy to abuse. But agin, more mental health support, and law enforcement when things go wrong, which they often can, which is why more control needs to be present.

Oh... "victimless crimes"... education is the key to ensuring use of legal or currently illegal drugs causes no harm. My knowing NOT TO DRIVE if I'm stoned or intoxicated, and focusing on that goal, is the way I see it. Public Safety is not violated when one sits in privacy alone or with others passing the pot pipe. And that's the whole point... as dangerous as alcohol can be and is, we educate people, we tell them, cause no harm, drink all you want. And we provide guidelines as to how much is too much.

Ann T. said...

Dear bobKat,
I can hardly wait to see these posts. I must say I find some contradictions in this comment, but I am sure you will be presenting more formally at your place. Sometimes a comment asks for too much condensing of the subject.

At any rate, I am glad you came back to check! My main concern is law enforcement, and I do know you are a staunch supporter of organizations that seek a solution to the drug/crime problem.

I will definitely pop on over.
Thanks for checking back!

Ann T.

BobKat said...

Thank-you Ann...

I can see one correction. I posted the following which I wish to correct:

Although one can find cannabis that would "blow them away"... it's still not the same as something like cocaine, which is man-made and manufactured from coca leaf. Coca leaf itself is a modest stimulant... but cocaine, like alcohol and tobacco, can easily be abused, and it becomes very much physically addictive, unlike cannabis, which has a modest psychological addiction potential, but more often than not, the user suffers little or no physical withdrawal if they don't have pot.

With "physical addiction" comes suffering, and suffering can lead to violence.

I was also clarifying that many who use pot don't use it to get "blown away", or get disappointed if the weed provides the benefits. Cannabis, like wine, is in a class by itself. Proclaiming pot leads to hard drugs is like saying wine leads to whiskey. It's simply not true.

Ann T. said...

Thanks for the clarification.
Ann T.