A lot of people don’t understand why nabbing narc offenders makes for
a rough day at the office for law enforcement. People break the law,
folks say, so just crack down; get tough.

Notice how well that tactic has worked thus far?

Most crimes are relatively controllable. We’ve got a lot of murders,
but cops get on the case and take care of business. Ditto for burglars
and embezzlers. Trouble is, drugs are different.

No matter how big the latest dope bust, police report another one,
even bigger, two weeks later. And far more drugs hit the street than
get seized by the men in striped pants, you can be sure. If anything,
drug use has risen immensely since the initial crackdown under President
Nixon. This is easily seen in the dropping street price of drugs, which
if you didn’t sleep through Econ 101 should tell you the supply just
might be getting bigger and bigger — not smaller, as the drug warriors
would hope.

The reason tackling drug trafficking is different, and more
difficult, than tackling street-side muggers, bank robbers, litter bugs
and j-walkers is that there’s no one to stand up and cry, “Foul!” Laws
against consensual crimes like drug use are ridiculously hard to enforce
because none of the parties involved will stand up to say they’ve been
wronged. They haven’t. Theoretically, each gets what he wants — one
gets dope, the other gets money.

With something like mugging, it’s a bit more one-sided; usually only
the mugger approves of billyclubbing wayward pedestrians. Thus, we have
a real victim — the guy with the dented cranium.

While you may feel like you’ve been mugged if you’ve had a bad trip,
dealing or using drugs is fundamentally different than crime in which
there is a bona fide victim.

Take a two-party pot pitch. The hash broker approaches, or is
approached by, a jonesing junkie. The first party has drugs he wants to
sell, and the other party just wants to party. Now, of course, what
they are about to do — trading dope for dough — is illegal. Neither
of the two really care about that, however; they want to do business.

Because both parties are willingly breaking the law, and probably
don’t want to spend the wee hours sharing a cell with maladjusted purse
snatchers, wife beaters and mattress-tag tearers, there is no one —
except perhaps nosy neighbors — to go to the cops. This means that
most drug crimes go on day and night without the law ever knowing.

Due to the secrecy of the crime and lack of a victim to fink to the
fuzz, nabbing narcotics violators is an extra special challenge. It
requires that police take the initiative and smoke out the scofflaws,
rather than respond to complaints about them, as is usually done. Most
policing is reactive: officers investigate after someone reports
a crime — usually the victim. With no victim, however, the police have
to switch gears, go to proactive policing. Here’s where problems

Proactive policing means going out and finding lawbreaking rather
than responding to it. Since folks who break the law generally don’t do
it under huge billboards announcing the fact, police are forced to go to
extraordinary lengths to find these narco-ne’er-do-wells.

  • They rely on anonymous snitches to rat on lawbreakers, some
    of whom are less-than accurate, which results in police arresting
    innocent people, searching and raiding the wrong homes.

  • They rely on dubious character profiling methods that are so
    broad and ambiguous they bring regular citizens by the score under
    police scrutiny.

  • They rely on random traffic stops and detention, hoping to find
    wrongdoing literally by accident and, in the process, violating the
    Fourth Amendment rights of countless innocent citizens.

  • They rely on tactics that any Joe-on-the-street would consider
    entrapment, leading — sometimes pressuring — people to buy drugs and
    then arresting them for it.

  • They rely on roving wiretaps, which expand federal surveillance
    powers to include not only tapping a particular person’s phone but also
    any phone used by, or “proximate” to, the target — regardless of who
    actually owns the phone.

  • They rely on no-knock raids, military-like attacks, which utilize
    shoot-first-ask-questions-later tactics and endangering the innocent by
    placing them literally in the line of fire.

  • In short, they rely on all sorts of things that actually treat
    the U.S. Constitution like a reusable rifle target.

These sorts of abuses are inherent to the drug war because of
the victimless nature of drug-law violations. Without someone actually
wronged who can go to the police, the authorities are forced to dig up
dope fiends by using a wide array of unconstitutional practices, deemed
kosher by courts only to justify continued prosecution of the drug war
and perhaps assuage the guilty consciences of law enforcers who know
their tactics have given rise to the wholesale destruction of the Bill
of Rights.

Either we face this inherent liberty-stifling element to the drug war
and thrust a stick in the spokes, or smile and abide the next batch of
freedom-filching innovations from the drug warriors with few complaints.

Related items:

Constitutional concerns

“The Lord giveth, the police taketh away”
Forget the Constitution — cops get seizure fever.

“Subtracting the 4th Amendment, part I”
Drug-courier profiles and the assault on the Bill of Rights.

“Subtracting the 4th Amendment, part II”
Police search-and-seizure tactics endanger American liberty and ransack the Bill of Rights.

“The problem with drug raids”
No-knock raids violate the Fourth Amendment and endanger liberty.

“Yakkity yak, don’t talk smack”
A column about the drug war’s recent attacks on the First Amendment.

Religious concerns

“Blaming drugs, or people?”
Is the drug problem cause by inanimate objects like a line of coke, or the sin in our hearts?

“Drug policy and my pal, Cal”
Taking conservative columnist Cal Thomas to task for hypocritical drug stance.

“One toke over the line, sweet Jesus?”
What does the Bible say Christians should think about drugs? This column attempts an answer — and it isn’t death-by-stoning.

“Witch way on drugs?”
The follow-up column to “One toke over the line, sweet Jesus?” exploring the drug-witchcraft connection.

Other concerns

“Politicians and media hype drug fears”
Why pols and the papers blow dope out of proportion — self-advancement.

“Fat for thought”
We’ve got a war on drugs, why not fatty foods?

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