Slapshot

Slapshot

Drug crimes rise in Ventura — so what now?

By Shane Cohn 02/21/2013



In Ventura, property-related crimes in 2012 jumped up 17 percent from a year ago; and residential burglaries are up 21 percent.


Drug related crimes (sales, possession, under the influence) in 2012 rose nearly 16 percent from 2011.


As your correspondent, I’m supposed to make some sense of these numbers, a correlation. But I don’t want to. I’m tired of it, and I don’t see the good that could come from doing so. No dealer is going to stop selling, no addict will quit using if they bother to read this.


Some inside the system could use these numbers to blame Gov. Jerry Brown and wave a finger in the air and use the increases in property crimes to say, “I told you so” about recidivism and California’s early release prisoner program, or maybe the police and health programs could use it in their fights for more funding.


Maybe the residents will add another lock to their doors or bolster their security systems.


Or maybe some will get guns to feel safe from thieving drug fiends.


But guns are the most sought-after loot in property thefts because of their street value. And the cycle just goes on and on.


Two years ago, Mexican drug lord José Antonio Medina Arreguin, also known as Don Pepe, “the heroin king,” was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in prison.


But heroin has never been more popular than it is today in West and also East Ventura County.


“Sadly, the arrest of one individual hasn’t done a lot to stop the influx of heroin,” Sheriff Geoff Dean tells me. “There has been a significant increase of heroin abuse in the East County and multiple deaths of young people.”


Ventura Police Chief Ken Corney corroborates this. “There were over 16,000 crimes charged to arrestees last year, and well over 25 percent were either property- or drug-related,” he says. “For a drug addict to obtain drugs, it’s the No. 1 priority in a day, and they will use multiple times in a day and have to obtain resources and money to pay for the drugs, and that is done through property theft crimes.”


Chronic drug abuse and addiction will impact on quality of life issues in a city, says Corney.


He’s right.


But so will shoddy infrastructure, traffic and overpriced cocktails.


Take a look at your city: Parents with kids, homeless with dogs, city employees, junkies buying drugs, merchants selling crafts, people getting drunk, people drinking coffee, parks, beaches, blacks, whites, browns, good, bad.


Where does it all go wrong? Why are these numbers rising?


It’s easy to blame the systems in place, the 99 percent, the government, for slowly tipping society just enough so that all of those barely hanging on pile upon each other in some mad disarray, to the point that life becomes impossibly hard and they need a good high to escape.


But as the ills of the world are beyond repair, this drug-laden urban entropy can perhaps be leveled.


Hard drugs are not going away. Prescriptions drugs will not go away. Marijuana is not going away. Crime is not going away. And these will always be linked. Spending billions of dollars a year on counternarcotics efforts, and filing comparative reports about percentage increases or decreases has not and will not help.


Perhaps creating a path to mild-forms of legalization with taxation, or a “depenalization,” as the Global Commission on Drug Policy has called for, could be a step toward a solution. It could recoup the billions we’ve spent on enforcement and put the money toward something like drug prevention and treatment, and this could maybe lessen the violence of the drug trade.


Or maybe not.


But when the media decides to report out numbers on something as complex and harrowing as drug addiction and its effects on a community, we have to stop using numbers as proof of success or failure.


Perhaps what the media and number-crunchers need to start focusing on are stories about people — not numbers, not statistics, not before-and-after-percentages — who have weathered the blows, gone against the “numbers,” proven them wrong and have made their lives work. Those people who were part of the problem and turned their lives around with positive solutions.


You can overwhelm us with percentages and numbers until we are blue in the face. The truth of the matter is we are punch-drunk from statistics, so weary from them that we just don’t respond or become jump-started by them.
What we do respond to are the triumphs of people who hurdle over the fence of percentages and walls of statistics they’re not supposed to scale.


That’s what inspires us, what we clamor for.


Give us people, not a litany of numbers.


That’s something we will never ever tire of.  


Slapshot is a monthly column/op-ed piece on various issues around Ventura County.

 

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