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Inner Cities

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In our tainted cities is a rooted human desire, a crude, self destructive one. And the hard truth is that all the law enforcement in the world can't mess with such desire.

We want to think its chemical, that it's all about the addictive mind, when instead it has become about validation, about lost souls assuring themselves that a daily relevance can be found at the find point of a disposable syringe.

We want it to be about nothing more complicated than cash money and human greed, when at the bottom, it's about a reason to believe.

city streets has a place for them, all of them, touts, runners, lookouts, mules, stickup boys, stash stealers, enforcers, fiends, burn artists, police snitches all are necessary in that world. Each to be used, abused and ultimately devoured with unfailing precision. In this place only, they belong. In our inner cities they know what to do, what they are, why they are there. Here they almost matter. Amid nothing, the streets are everything.

They are not just out there to sling and shoot drugs, that's how it all began, yes, but 42 years has transformed the streets into something far more lethal and lasting than a simple market place.

It's about the fiends, thousands of them, who just want good dope. Need it the way other people need to breathe air. Working men on their lunch hour go rubbing up against corner dwellers that haven't seen a job in ten years.

In neighborhoods where no other wealth exists, they have constructed an economic engine so powerful that they'll readily sacrifice everything to it. And make no mistake: that engine is humming.

No Slacking profit margins, no recessions, no bad quarterly reports, no layoffs, no naturalized unemployment rate.

The culture of drugs has created a wealth-gathering structure so elemental and enduring that it can be called a social compact. Third world conditions in the hearts of our cities, the poor will always be with us, declared the biblical sages, and this divided nation seems to go out of its way to prove the point.

Their problems are beyond the reach of programs, policies or good intentions.

Since the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act, the USA has made enormous efforts to deny the reality that drug prohibition increases crime without eliminating addiction. This remains as true today as ever. We have spent 75 years and untold billions of dollars trying to square the circle, and, inevitably, we have failed. We can't stop it. Not with all the lawyers, guns and money in this world. Not with guilt or morality or righteous indignation. Not with crime summits, or task forces, or committees. Not with policy decisions made in places that can't be seen from the streets on our inner cities. No Lasting victory in the war on drugs can be bought by doubling the number of beat cops or tripling the number of prison beds. At the heart of our big cities, they understand this.

This is an existential crisis rooted not only in race, but in the unresolved disaster of the American rust belt, shutting down assembly lines. In Baltimore some of the walking wounded use to make steel, but the Sparrows Point isn't hiring the way it once did. And some used to load the container ships at sea girt and locust point, but the port isn't what it used to be either. Others worked at koppers, American standard, or Armco, but those plants are gone now.

Once it was altogether different. Generations back, Baltimore was at its glory, more diverse neighbor hoods, working class, and middle class lived along main streets, there was a time with unlocked windows and doors, and sleeping in druid Hill Park on a hot summer a time where, violence rarely ever went beyond the occasional domestic abuse. Also heroin was quiet and only a hipster's game, a fringe hustle played out in basements and after-hours clubs. Their addiction more or less due to social rebellion or alienation.

There were two thousand addicts in Baltimore of 1958; the city police department's narcotic had their hand full then. But came the 1960's and that early innocence was followed by hard by A heroin wave the crested in every east coast city.

Back then, dealers had rules, some could even say morals. They dint serve children or use children to serve, just as they wouldn't sell to wide-eyed virgins looking to use the first time, They carried the threat of violence sure, but in the end the dint shoot anybody who dint need to be shot.

When a shooting was necessary, pros were hired, men willing to get in close, take aim and hit the right target.

If they dint know your name or face, they'd check your shoe leather, your clothes, your build, your veins, they could spot a fiend from a mile away, all with care because the humiliation of selling to a cop was not acceptable.

By the mid 1970's a succession of federal task forces had knocked down most the well known dealers in west Baltimore, little Melvin, Big Lucille, liddie Jones, Snyder Blanchard, a huge step forward for time, but only for a time because their seeds have already be sown. The young adapted their rules into their life just as they did, the rules were maintained, at least till the coke came.

Cocaine changed the world.

The heroin trade was limited to only hardcore users, but the arrival of cheap plentiful cocaine in the early mid 1980's broke down all barriers and let everyone play.

Both are white powder but each have a distinct pharmacological flavor.

Dope is a downer, the heavy base. Coke is a rush to the wire; it makes you numb to the world. You don't care about nobody or nothing.

With heroin, even the hungriest have a limit. Coke can go in clean, without the squeamish of a syringe, hence its popularity. When coke hit Baltimore in the mid 1980's, it went beyond the existing addict population, gathering a new market share, for the first time bringing the women to the streets in startling numbers.

By the late eighties most of the trade was on the pipe. By the turn of the decade, the survivors graduated to speedballs, the mixture of dope and coke for the ultimate rush, leveled out with heroin as a base.

The decade long cocaine epidemic, emerging in the mid 90's made a city such as Baltimore the highest rate of intravenous drug use in the country.

These new habits even made old time users disgusted.

Even to them, it was a low-bottom addiction, even to them, it was pathetic. Anyone could ride the Amtrak or the greyhound to New York



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