Brixton? Right Now It's a 24-hr Crack Supermarket

Brixton? Right Now It's a 24-hr Crack Supermarket
Posted by CN Staff on June 23, 2002 at 08:48:28 PT
By Tony Thompson
Source: Observer UK
One year after the softly-softly approach to cannabis began, hard drug use is soaring. Has Paddick's experiment failed - or is the fight unwinnable? The attack happened so quickly that the young black man hardly had time to react. The five white police officers knocked him to the ground, pushed their knees into his chest and locked their arms around his neck. It was the middle of the afternoon in London's Brixton market, the area at the heart of a hugely controversial 'softly-softly' drugs experiment which has seen those caught with small amounts of cannabis facing nothing more than a telling-off. 
Within seconds a hostile crowd had started to gather, alarmed at what appeared to be police brutality. The officers knew they had to act quickly to prevent things from turning ugly. Once the police had the man under control, one of the officers reached into the man's mouth and removed half a dozen wraps of crack cocaine, which he held out on the palm of his hand. 'We believe this man is a crack dealer,' he explained. 'We are arresting him because we are trying to get hard drugs off the streets.' The incident took place earlier this month and a surveillance tape of the incident has been used by Chief Superintendent Brian Moore, Acting Borough Commander for Lambeth, to illustrate the state of the drug problem one year after the experiment began. The police accept that dealers are acting with absolute impunity by selling crack and other drugs in broad daylight. The dramatic police tactics are necessary because if the dealers manage to swallow the crack they keep in their mouths, officers have no way of charging them with possession. 'Many people find this film shocking,' said Moore. 'But it is the reality of what we are dealing with. The centre of Brixton is a 24-hour crack supermarket. We have 15 dealers during the day and up to 20 throughout the night. They each sell 100 rocks per week at 10 a time. It means the centre of Brixton alone is a crack market worth 12 million each year. The level of demand means that even if we arrested 1,000 dealers, they'd be replaced by 1,000 new ones the next day.' When the cannabis experiment was launched by the outspoken Metropolitan Police Commander Brian Paddick, it was hailed as a brave step by the pro-drugs lobby but seen as a blow to law and order by others who feared it would lead to a relaxation of attitudes towards harder drugs. Paddick himself said: 'I have never known anyone commit crime to fund a cannabis habit.' In recent weeks, criticism of the experiment from the community and the police themselves has risen. Locals have reported incidents of children as young as 10 under the effects of cannabis. Some children are said to have turned up at school stoned while there have been instances of children whose parents are dealers being employed as couriers and rewarded with cannabis. Last week Asa Hutchinson, Director of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, visited Brixton and pronounced the experiment a failure. He claimed that its main effect had been to encourage more people to smoke the drug and to do so more openly. There has also been criticism from within the Met. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Mike Fuller, head of Scotland Yard's drugs directorate, said there were 'significant flaws' in the experiment. Writing in the Police Review, he noted: 'Our school officers report that children feel that the police are sending mixed messages to young people by on the one hand trying to deter young people from abusing and experimenting with drugs, and yet appearing hypocritical by not strictly enforcing the drug laws.' A recent Mori poll found that while half of all white residents in Brixton supported the experiment, the majority of black and Asian residents opposed it. Fuller believes this is because the white middle classes have a rose-tinted view of drug-taking and do not see the problems that are caused in the same way as ethnic communities do. Since the experiment began last July, there has been a 13 per cent increase in the number of cannabis dealers travelling to Brixton to sell their wares. Drug dealing offences in the borough have risen by 11 per cent and recorded cases of cannabis possession by 34 per cent. What seems to most concern local people, however, is that by relaxing attitudes to cannabis, police have given a signal to all drug dealers that they have nothing to fear. 'The police have abandoned the streets to the dealers,' said Reverend Ivelaw Bowman of St Andrew's Church. 'You cannot use the bus stop at the top of Coldharbour Lane or the nearby telephone boxes because they have been taken over by the dealers. They sell drugs openly and without fear, even though you cannot move for CCTV cameras there. And it is the same people day after day. The law is not being enforced and the question everyone in the community wants an answer to is this: if we can see it, why can't the police?' In the debate over whether the Lambeth experiment has been a success or a failure, many have lost sight of what Paddick's original aims were. Some believe the experiment was simply a reflection of his personal views on cannabis. But Paddick took over the Lambeth patch soon after an independent Home Office inquiry concluded that it was an inefficient use of police resources to continue clamping down on soft drugs when Britain had the highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe. The experiment was an attempt to better manage those dwindling police resources. The situation in Lambeth, which now has the highest levels of crack abuse in Britain, was rapidly getting out of control. With 100 fewer officers in Lambeth due to cutbacks, Paddick needed a drastic solution. Arresting and charging someone with possessing a small amount of cannabis would take officers off the street for up to eight hours at a time. Paddick reasoned that if his officers no longer had to do that, they could devote more time to chasing crack dealers. The Paddick experiment was not particularly radical. After the Brixton race riots in 1981, police in the area adopted a relaxed attitude towards cannabis smoking: the chances of being arrested and prosecuted for possessing the drug were minimal. All the Paddick experiment did was formalise an arrangement that had been in place for years. Although the scheme succeeded in some ways, an investigation by The Observer has found that its impact on the crack trade has been minuscule. One problem, which becomes obvious on a walk through Brixton, is that the dealers who sell cannabis are the same dealers who sell crack. Those who approach and inquire about the softer drug are almost always offered crack instead. 'It's just good business,' said Dennis, 41, a Brixton resident who spent 15 years addicted to crack and heroin, spending up to 5,000 a week on his habit. 'Why sell someone 10 worth of cannabis and perhaps see them again in a month's time when you can sell them 10 worth of crack and see them three hours later for 10 more?' The Lambeth experiment had two aims: to free up police man-hours and to increase the number of people prosecuted for dealing Class A drugs. On both counts it has succeeded. A preliminary study by the police found that 1,350 man-hours had been liberated, the equivalent of almost two extra full-time officers. As for the number of Class A drug dealers arrested, that had increased by more than 10 per cent. But a closer examination of the numbers quickly shows that police in Brixton are fighting a losing battle to control the drug trade. The rise in Class A drug convictions is impressive as a statistic but actually amounts to just 17 additional arrests compared to the previous year. Taking Moore's own statistics about the number of dealers operating and comparing it to the number of arrests shows that a crack dealer in the centre of Brixton has only a one in 85 chance of being arrested during the course of a year. Furthermore, with current tactics requiring at least eight officers per operation, if police wanted to arrested 10 per cent of the dealers currently active in the town centre, they would need to liberate some 6,700,000 more man-hours than the 1,350 the experiment has produced so far. There are other worrying signs. The standard indicator for the size and health of any drug market is street price. When drugs are in short supply, the price goes up - when they are plentiful, it falls. Since the experiment began, the price of cannabis had climbed from 27 per ounce to 30. Over the same period of time, the price of crack cocaine has fallen. 'People complain that the dealing takes place openly, but it has always been like that,' said Dennis. 'I've been clean for two years but the dealers who are out there now are the same people who were there when I was using. Nothing has changed in that sense. The market has grown, but the way it operates is the same.' In an attempt to beat police tactics, dealers now carry fewer rocks in their mouths than they used to in order to make it easier to swallow them in the event of a raid. They have also brought in 'mouth-to-mouth' dealing where customers place the drugs in their own mouths the instant the transaction is complete. The danger this practice represents makes it impossible for undercover officers to take part in sting operations. Although street crack dealers are a major problem, chiefly because of the violence associated with them, they are only the tip of the iceberg. There are currently 74 crack houses in the Brixton area, most of them in buildings belonging to the most vulnerable members of the community. Dealers prey on the vulnerable and mentally ill and in some cases take over their properties. When a crack house is raided and shut down, the vulnerable person is left waiting for another group to arrive and resume business. Use of heroin has also spiralled in Brixton. The numbers of syringes, needles and other items associated with addicts is now so high that last week Faith Bowman, Chief Executive of Lambeth Council, announced a plan to introduce Britain's first refuse team dedicated to cleaning up drug paraphernalia. The feeling among local drug policy workers, who feel unable to speak openly, is that Paddick was allowed to carry out the experiment because the Met wanted to test public opinion before introducing the policy more widely. Paddick, not Scotland Yard, would carry the can if it all went wrong. Campaigners say the real difficulty is that Lambeth was simply the worst place to try the experiment because the problems were so extensive. Indeed, many senior police officers seem to be all but blaming Paddick's experiment for making things worse. In the latest twist, Moore is calling for new police powers to allow him to detain suspects who are believed to have swallowed crack until the drugs pass out of their systems. 'These are the powers that customs officers have. When you walk though an airport you don't see customs officers rolling around on the floor with people trying to force their mouths open, yet they deal with people who have swallowed drugs every day. They simply detain them and let nature take its course. If we had the same powers, we would be far more effective.' Source: Observer, The (UK)Author: Tony ThompsonPublished: Sunday, June 23, 2002Copyright: 2002 The ObserverContact: letters Articles & Web Site:Drugs Uncovered: Observer Special Official Attacks Drug Tactics Drugs Head Slams Soft UK Chiefs Set To Extend Soft Line on Drugs 
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Comment #8 posted by Darwin on June 24, 2002 at 07:59:18 PT
BBC article
I was at BBC and noticed that they too have an article about the crack "explosion". There's reads substantially different. Danny Kushlick of Transform said the government needs to reassess its whole drugs policy, starting with the admission that making drugs illegal does not work. Here's a snippet of the article from the BBC-It's certainly associated with more violent crime and particularly thefts, robberies and burglaries. 
Steve Stevens - drugs worker 
He said: "If you look at what happens when you hand the trade over to international organised crime and unregulated dealers you see all the problems the government then tries to solve. "So, turf wars, property crime, street dealing, access to drugs by young people - those are the problems that are actually caused by prohibition." Mr Kushlick said regulated distribution of crack cocaine, and other drugs, would stamp out many of the problems.
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Comment #7 posted by BGreen on June 23, 2002 at 16:27:14 PT
Golly Gee
Once again they're telling us that by locking up cannabis smokers, the pesky crack situation will disappear. Who has told us that before? Why, everybody in the US gov't since crack became popular in the 1980's.I have to admit: Crack still exists because I've never been incarcerated. Please forgive me!
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Comment #6 posted by WolfgangWylde on June 23, 2002 at 14:15:07 PT
Wow, this is upsetting news...
...Not. No offense to the useful idiots at the Observer, but we have 24-hour open air drug markets, stoned kids, drive-by's, the whole nine yards, right here in the good ol' Zero Tolearnce U.S. of A. What exactly, is their point?
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Comment #5 posted by xxdr_zombiexx on June 23, 2002 at 13:14:49 PT
A Case Referred to me once upon a time.....
Once upon a time a young lady was referred to me.Actually it was her son, a 7 year old boy who appeared notoriously hyperactive.It became apparent that he was neglected and that mom was a serious crack addict.Mom is also, I believe, profoundly depressed. The crack is both a symptom of her powerlessness and of self-medication of the underlying depression.*******
Dealers prey on the vulnerable and mentally ill and in some cases take over their properties. When a crack house is raided and shut down, the vulnerable person is left waiting for another group to arrive and resume business
********The lady told me, in near hysterical sobs, the exact same story I carved from the article there. They wait for her at her door, they invade her home. she is black in a bad neighbor hood and no phone: she cant call the police. Plus she'll get evicted. Her life is so miserable.She was always treated as a "crack addict". A young black woman with a couple kids and a vicious crack habit. Prostitution, removal of children by Social Service agencies...the works.Long story short, I was referred this boy several times and each time I got more convinced MOM need the evaluation and the treatment and the boys issues would tend to clear up.Mom never got that evaluation, even though I have spoken with several agencies about it. I even finally coached her on exactly what to say to the Alcohol and Drug people to force an eval...She cant stay out of rehab or jail long enough, and the jail people...well "she's a crackhead".This burns the zombie ass.It's wholly and inexpensively preventable.And I cannot get past the overt racism involved at so many different levels. Talk about peering into the Chasm.....Anyway,I have linked Richard Cowans Nark Created Crack in the UK article from marijuananews earlier this month. : How the Narks Created Crack in Britain
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Comment #4 posted by p4me on June 23, 2002 at 12:43:36 PT
Class C on July 15
Someone at the DE messageboard heard a rumor that the Class C announcement will come on July 15th. There was a good article titled "Europe loosens its pot laws": It is obvious that the class C is not acceptable to many in Britain from this article that appeared in Rolling Stone.1,2
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Comment #3 posted by Sam Adams on June 23, 2002 at 11:58:06 PT
propaganda article
strange to see this appearing in the Observer.The author seems to have a malleable sense of time and space, shifting from cannabis to crack and back again, and seeming to blame the results of 30 years of a failing Drug War on a 6 month experiment to not arrest a few potsmokers.Duh! We know the officers are failing at controlling the drug trade, that's why they tried the cannabis experiment to begin with! And, if they're smart, their conclusion will be that they didn't go far enough, that cannabis needs to be regulated & sold in approved retail outlets. Of course the people in the slums don't understand the policy - they've never been to Holland, they haven't researched public policy - if they were well educated, then they'd be making enough money to live elsewhere! that's why we're supposed to rely on "experts" in the government & law enforcement devise the best policy. 
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Comment #2 posted by TroutMask on June 23, 2002 at 10:15:24 PT
Allow marijuana sales in licensed locations and arrest people selling it on the streets, while allowing for personal production. Just like alcohol! To think that allowing legal use without legal supply will solve anything is stupid.-TM
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Comment #1 posted by VitaminT on June 23, 2002 at 09:48:44 PT
Street dealers are not necessary
Each neighborhood should have it's own cannabis pub similar to the beer pub. That way there is no need for dealing on the street. You can't lift enforcement in just a single district and not expect it to become a mecca for Cannabis and other substances traditionally supplied by the same dealers. Spread the business out and integrate it into the ordinary business enviroment where no district becomes ground zero for drug dealing.From an editorial in the June 24, 2002 Barrons Magazine:"The buyers of drugs would be perfectly happy to buy them in a clean, 
well-lit store at reasonable prices, with the profits heavily taxed to 
support schools, medical benefits, or any other legitimate function of 
government - - even police. That's how they buy cigarettes and liquor, 
neither of which finances international terrorists. ..."I found this quote on the site below.
entheogen experiment
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