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War On Drugs — Let The Landlords Do It

city hall In a noble but misguided effort to assist troubled neighborhoods, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is going with the Whack-a-Mole approach to our war on drugs; why he thinks this method will succeed is not known. Over the last several decades, as a result of various combined law enforcement efforts, cartels have been moving their smuggling activities in and out of the Caribbean, over to Mexico, and up and down Central and South America. The cocaine industry, which started in Peru and Bolivia, moved to Colombia; then pressure on the Colombian cocaine cartels pushed the business back into Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. We learned last summer that military offensives in Mexico, Colombia, Guatemala, and Honduras (where DEA agents participated in lethal drug operations with a Honduran police squad, oops) have now squeezed drug traffickers into Costa Rica (HuffPo: “Costa Rica Drug Trafficking Threatens Country’s National Parks”). In other words, success is just around the corner . . . always. Perhaps the solution lies in Africa; let’s spend money there. The New York Times reported in July,

. . . the United States has begun training an elite unit of counternarcotics police in Ghana and planning similar units in Nigeria and Kenya as part of an effort to combat the Latin American cartels that are increasingly using Africa to smuggle cocaine into Europe.

Sadly, this same short-sighted approach is playing itself out right here in Providence, where the Mayor and the City Council have revamped a city ordinance — City Solicitor Jeffrey Padwa is calling it “the drug house ordinance” — with an unbelievably cumbersome enforcement regime that promises to clog up the court system with hearings and appeals, and more appeals (ProJo 11.30.12). The American Civil Liberties Union correctly suggests

. . . that the city would stigmatize alleged nuisance properties, trample on the civil rights of landlords and tenants and punish them for activities beyond their control. City officials’ actions, they complained in part, will push landlords into illegal discrimination against tenants or potential tenants.

We can move the users and dealers around and around, but it will never put a dent in the drug market. Let’s hope that Mayor Taveras and the other elected officials will someday soon take a step back and look at the big picture and come up with a more enlightened approach to this problem. Landlords? Really? (For more information go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) an organization of which I am a member.)