A big problem for the police (and more so for respectable ghetto residents) is the unfortunate truth that for many young men, gangster culture is alluring. Apart from the low pay and the high risk of getting murdered, drug-dealing is not a bad job, says Peter Moskos, a sociologist who spent a year as a policeman in Baltimore's eastern district. You hang out with your friends. People “respect” (ie, fear) you. You project glamour. You get laid.
You also become otherwise unemployable, says Mr Moskos. To survive on the street, you learn to react violently and pre-emptively to the slightest challenge. This is a useful trait for a drug-dealer, but, oddly, managers at Starbucks do not value it.
Civil libertarians argue that America punishes non-violent drug offenders far too harshly. Mr Moskos reckons that, at least in Baltimore, the people jailed for drug possession are usually violent dealers whose more serious crimes cannot be proven or whose plea bargains have been accepted by an over-burdened judicial system. He thinks drugs should be legalised, though, because their prohibition fuels a criminal economy where disputes are settled violently.
April 18, 2008
In the Economist
I'm quoted prominently in an excellent article about Baltimore in the current Economist. But it's a real shame he didn't plug my book (Cop in the Hood). Or my school (John Jay College of Criminal Justice). But it is still a very good article.
Labels: good press