Claims from experts in July 30th’s London Paper that “taking a tough stand against drug dealers…does not work” are timely and welcome recognition of the importance of protection against criminals in the broader community. While drug dealers (the petty and unprofessional – which are many – or the established and professional – which may prove to range in similar numbers) might be hard to stop completely (the laws of supply and demand cannot be ignored) focusing solely on those higher in this criminal system, fails to address the problems caused by the opportunistic thieves, mindless junkies, petty street thugs and low-life pick-pockets that the majority of the population comes into contact with on a more regular basis.
Whether we like the notion or not, dealing drugs is a business, and its proprietors would prefer to do as little as possible to jeopardise their business interests. The fact of the matter is that targeting dealers, while it may risk “murderous turf wars” or the arrested dealer being “replaced by someone who is more violent” (amongst many other outcomes) even though they may continue to supply and provide, we can’t be ignorant of the fact that addicts and fiends are smashing windows and stealing laptops, brandishing knives and swiping phones, pulling guns and holding up off-licenses, breaking noses and pinching wallets. There is also the risk of the spread of diseases like HIV, AIDS and hepatitis which is prevalent amongst the needle-using, drug-using community. As uncompassionate as this all sounds, there is also the fact that many of these users can be rehabilitated and reintegrated back into the community, where they can make a meaningful contribution, rather than a much more marked, negative impact.
Alan Campbell’s comments that “tough enforcement is a fundamental part of the government’s strategy [on drugs]” once again highlight a lack of willingness on the government’s part to get involved in the grass-roots aspects of the problems in our communities. At the same time, it is somewhat of a feeble, idle threat that is no doubt falling on deaf or ignorant ears.
Wide-ranging research into successful drug policy highlights the benefits of increased treatment. The same research also states that law-enforcement be decreased (sensibly) whilst speaking for the abolition of mandatory minimum sentences. Drug markets will always remain – focus needs to be shifted to ridding society of those at the bottom of this chain.