The headline in today’s Providence Journal reads “Record heroin seizure in R.I.” as if this were a big win in our war on drugs, when in fact it means just the opposite. If we were winning this war after 40 years the hauls would be getting smaller and smaller, and much harder to find. But once again Rhode Island law enforcement officials, U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha, the Mayor, and the DEA have held a news conference to announce the “largest heroin seizure in Rhode Island history.” But the ProJo article notes right at the top,
It was more than three times, by weight, the size of the largest previous heroin seizure in Rhode Island, in 2004. Investigators then grabbed 13.2 pounds, also in Providence.
And the largest cocaine bust in Rhode Island took place just last year when authorities found 143 pounds of the stuff in a North Kingstown storage unit. By what strange calculus could this possibly be called progress?
The Jim Taricani report on Channel 10 identifies the two men arrested as “high-level drug dealers.” But how high-level can they be if it only took two weeks for police to get from the initial street purchase to the big stash. There may be a lot more where that came from. And these two guys will soon be replaced, although we may have to endure another violent turf war for that to happen.
This in no way diminishes the dangerous nature of this police work and the sincerity of the officers involved. But many members of the law enforcement community have come to believe that the war on drugs is an expensive failure that is tearing apart families and neighborhoods. Let’s try treating drug addiction as the public health problem it is. For more information please go to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of which I am a member.