Pubdate: Sat, 23 Mar 2002
Source: Chattanooga Times Free Press (TN)
Copyright: 2002 Chattanooga Publishing Co


You may wonder why anyone would be so foolish as to use illegal drugs that 
threaten and ruin lives. You might not think of using drugs yourself. You 
hear about drug problems but can't imagine how drugs directly can affect 
you. But Chattanooga Police Chief Jimmie Dotson warns that none of us 
should be so sure.

Drugs directly affect us all, he told Chattanooga Rotarians this week, 
pointing out that many of the crimes committed in our community involve 
drug offenders. Many of them are robbing and committing burglaries to 
finance their drug habits.

Many have heard such warnings before, but in his Rotary program, Chief 
Dotson had a couple of helpers to drive his message home. One was a black 
pastor who reported that he rented a house in Highland Park to a tenant -- 
only to find out in time that the tenant was a major drug dealer, who was 
surrounded by a small army of allies who were armed with big money and 
guns, who did "good turns" for people in the neighborhood, buying their 
support or acquiescence. When the pastor ordered the offending drug dealer 
to vacate his property, the pastor was in danger of being killed.

The climax of the program, however, was Chief Dotson's second guest. He was 
the drug dealer -- or "former" drug dealer. He stepped up to the microphone 
to tell in well-modulated, articulate speech that he had attended private 
schools, had great opportunities, but found he could make thousands of 
dollars a day dealing drugs. He explained how drugs are a widespread danger 
throughout Chattanooga, not just "somewhere else."

The former drug dealer said his life had changed when he became a 
Christian. He said he is now under "40 years" of sentences on probation, 
and he now is working with the pastor-landlord to fight drugs in Chattanooga.

Chief Dotson pointed out that our jails are overcrowded, a large percentage 
of prisoners being there because of drugs. Many of them had been supplying 
youngsters in the best of our neighborhoods and the best of our schools, 
and others are still on the streets making drug sales. The chief said it is 
impossible to build enough prisons to hold drug offenders.

Chief Dotson emphasized that the only way to solve the drug problem is to 
reduce the demand. Supply, whether from Colombia or Afghanistan or the Far 
East, is driven by market demand. And people we know, along with people we 
don't know, are driving the demand.

Chief Dotson reported that many businesses that require testing for drugs 
as a condition of employment have been shocked by their findings that a 
high percentage of job applicants are disqualified because of drugs in 
their systems.

The first step in solving the drug problem is being aware of it. It's not 
something that affects just "others" who are "somewhere else." The problem 
affects "us," our children, our employers, our whole community. There is no 
quick answer. But as Chief Dotson pointed out, real solution demands a 
reduction in demand, and that begins with all of us.
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