Pubdate: Tue, 22 May 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw, Times Colonist


Effects Are Temporary And 'Symbolic,' Official Says, And Police Don't

What do drug busts actually accomplish? Drug officers will be the
first to tell you any positive effect in busting mid-level street
dealers is temporary, at best.

"Historically, when we've done these operations, we've seen a
reduction in the number of dealers on the street," said Const. Conor
King. "We will see a cleaner block until they are out of jail ... or
they get replaced."

But demand for drugs doesn't decrease just because police crack down
on a few blocks.

"Drug markets are very flexible, so the market quite likely moves
somewhere else," said Benedikt Fischer, director of the illicit drugs,
public health and policy unit at the Centre for Addictions Research of

"Even if you take a few dealers out of the machinery, someone else
quickly comes in."

The impact of a police drug blitz is often overestimated, he said.
"The effect is probably close to zero, especially in the long run."

There are, however, collateral effects, such as the price of street
drugs rising when cops squeeze the mid-level suppliers, said Fischer.
"What do you have as a consequence? The people who commit the crimes
have to commit more crimes to afford the drugs which are now more
expensive to them.

"You further spiral the demand of the black market."

But police say that didn't happen following a major bust of a
high-level cocaine supplier in March. "It's too widespread for us to
affect the price of a drug, set by thousands of people," said King.

Generally, Fischer said police street drug busts are "symbolic" and
designed to remind the public that police are doing something to
combat drug dealers.

Fischer, who spent a year studying community policing in Toronto for
his PhD, said police officers privately acknowledge the war against
drugs is unwinnable.

"The cops would tell me, 'I can move that dealer two blocks no
problem. It won't change that he's a dealer and he moves two blocks,
but at least that middle-class community organization won't bother us
for awhile.'

"This is often, very sadly, what policing is all about. It's about
displacing and moving the problem around."

The police are in a tough spot, he said. The real solution is to
explore some form of drug legalization, said Fischer.

"There are a lot of police officers that would agree with him," said
King. "But legalization is a matter for the public to decide."

Police accept the criticism, said King. But for now, at least the drug
crackdowns provide some impact on repeat offenders in troublesome
areas of town, he said.

"That is what the public and businesses expect from police," he said.
"We don't give up on an area. They ask us to arrest drug dealers and
we follow through."

Fischer said society has to take a long look at changing its policies
on drug addictions, because police crackdowns will never solve the

"This is not a problem that will change with the tools we are

- - - -

Recent Milestones in the war on drugs

- - May 17, 2007 -- Victoria police announce a record-setting seizure of
crystal meth, with a street value up to $80,000 after a month-long

- -April 13, 2007 -- Victoria police dismantle a family-run cocaine- and
heroin-dealing operation, described as one of the largest in the city.
Called "Project Plato," cops say their operation temporarily makes it
harder to get cocaine on the streets.

- - March 2, 2007 -- Saanich, Victoria, Central Saanich and RCMP
officers collaborate on a two-week investigation on property crime
that leads to 12 arrests and a bust on mid-level drug dealers in meth,
heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.

- -Sept. 1, 2006 -- Victoria police seize 16 kilograms of cocaine, the
largest amount in force history, after raiding a townhouse in the
Selkirk waterfront area.

- - Aug. 14, 2006 -- Victoria police and the U.S. navy run a three-day
sting called Project Calypso to coincide with a crush of sailors in
town from the aircraft carrier USS Stennis. They arrest 13 local drug
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MAP posted-by: Derek