Northeast Times

Was local drug raid nothing but chicken scratch?

In this week's River­ward Rant, colum­nist Joe Quigley looks at the war on drugs (and the - pos­sibly more win­nable - war on cock­fight­ing.)

I just read about a nar­cot­ics sweep in Hunt­ing Park — it oc­curred on Thursday, March 1, at two homes on the 4000 block of N. Fairhill St., ac­cord­ing to a re­port on Philly.com — in which po­lice con­fis­cated dope, a pleth­ora of fire­arms, plus a bunch of cock­fight roost­ers.

Truly, this event is a vic­tory for the good guys in the Philly drug war, and for roost­er en­thu­si­asts across the re­gion.

Ex­cept, we should ques­tion if vic­tor­ies like these really help (in the drug war, I mean. This is ob­vi­ously a great suc­cess in the on­go­ing war on people who ab­use chick­ens).

What I’m ask­ing is that, after all of the hard work and loads of money spent on pre­par­ing for and ex­ecut­ing a drug raid like this, are Philly streets any safer?

The an­swer, ob­vi­ously, is a re­sound­ing “No!”

I wrote this column the morn­ing after that nar­cot­ics sweep. Just about two hours ago, I grabbed an egg-and-cheese sand­wich at the Mc­Don­ald’s at 2nd Street and Le­high Av­en­ue and — what a sur­prise — there were just as many ad­dicts sham­bling to­ward the dope corners as there are on any oth­er morn­ing.

Ar­rest­ing dope deal­ers is a lot like killing roaches — for every crit­ter you squash there are dozens that es­cape.

In the on­go­ing drug war, po­lice brass seem to love to show their of­ficers haul­ing out bundles of dope and drug money, as if squash­ing those par­tic­u­lar bugs are go­ing to make a dent in the over­all in­fest­a­tion.

It won’t.

Think about all the drug raids, which can cost count­less dol­lars and can cause so much drug-re­lated vi­ol­ence, and in the end they do little — ex­cept to help cre­ate massive pris­on in­dus­tri­al com­plexes.

All of it hasn’t done squat to slow the nar­cot­ics trade. The war on drugs is a battle of at­tri­tion that Philly can’t win.

Think about it this way: The in­ter­sec­tion of Kens­ing­ton Av­en­ue at Somer­set Street might as well be gang­land Chica­go dur­ing the Pro­hib­i­tion era.

Ex­cept, in Chica­go, Al Ca­pone and the rum-run­ning mobs ter­ror­ized the coun­try only from 1919 to 1933 — be­fore people real­ized that booze hounds are go­ing to get their product one way or an­oth­er.

All those years ago, we saw this same thing hap­pen. By out­law­ing the product, law­makers cre­ated a sys­tem that pumped un­told dol­lars and power in­to the hands of or­gan­ized-crime rings.

When the Pro­hib­i­tion era was over, or­gan­ized crime lost much of its in­flu­ence.

It’s a proven fact.

It’s also com­mon sense and it’s ana­log­ous to the drug war we see on Philly streets every day.

So why are we still wa­ging a war on drugs?

I don’t think there’s any dif­fer­ence between the mob­sters who ran booze in the 1920s and the gang­sters who run drugs in Kens­ing­ton.

If we ended the drug war — which means we are es­sen­tially liv­ing in an era of drug pro­hib­i­tion — those murder-happy knuckle­heads ped­dling drugs on the corner would lose the strangle­hold they cur­rently en­joy in large tracts of the city.

I mean, Al Ca­pone would have been nobody without il­leg­al booze.

A drug deal­er (let’s call him “Ray Ray”) stand­ing un­der a street­light at the in­ter­sec­tion of 20th and Dauph­in streets is no dif­fer­ent.

I don’t know about you, but I like my tax dol­lars to be spent on ef­fect­ive gov­ern­ment policies.

I don’t mind the gov­ern­ment tak­ing my money to build bet­ter schools or to help old people get cheap medi­cine or to keep SEPTA vehicles from smelling like toi­lets.

But when it comes to our taxes fin­an­cing a los­ing and mis­guided drug war? No, thank you.

Es­pe­cially when any­one can open a his­tory book and learn about the mess that was al­co­hol pro­hib­i­tion.

But, for a mo­ment, let me go back to what I star­ted to talk about — the roost­ers and guns. Yes, cock­fight chick­ens were res­cued in that re­cent drug raid.

Those scum­bags were for­cing liv­ing creatures to tear them­selves to bits for the amuse­ment of an­im­al-ab­us­ing so­ciopaths.

The same dirt­balls in that raid were also armed with shot­guns.

Now, the war on cock­fight­ers who carry shot­guns is a battle worth fight­ing, for one simple reas­on: It can be won.

Not so with the war on drugs.

Un­til we re­cog­nize that real­ity (that there will al­ways be drug ad­dicts and there will al­ways be gang­sters provid­ing them with products), we’re go­ing to keep pour­ing — and wast­ing —money fight­ing this drug war of at­tri­tion. ••

“River­ward Rants” re­flects the opin­ions of Joe Quigley, a Fishtown res­id­ent, area nat­ive and writer of the Web site PhillyNeigh­bor.com, where he makes cyn­ic­al (and un­censored) com­ments about life in the river­wards. He can be reached at JQuig1984@gmail.com.

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