For those of you not familiar with “The Wire”, in season three, Major Bunny Colvin got tired of all the violence in Baltimore. He got tired of all the shootings, all the innoncents getting victimed, all of the waste of time putting dope on the table. He wanted to make a real difference.
Most of the time of the narcotics unit seemed to be spent making useless arrests of corner boys so that they could 1) keep their numbers up, 2) make their superiors happy by putting dope on the table.
Why do I keep referring to dope on the table? Well, it’s an expression used by police for the dog and pony show created by administrators so that they can hold a news conference with a bunch of baggies and usually some money and guns on a table, and talk about how they’re making a real difference on the streets.
Real police know this is just bullshit grandstanding. Real police know that effective narcotics work would have far fewer arrests far less often, but would have much larger ramifications.
But that don’t make the brass as happy as dope on the table press conferences. These conferences allow the brass to keep their jobs while not actually doing anything.
Bunny decided he’d take a different track.
Bunny lectured his troops on how, in the 1950s, a “civic compromise” was struck between the guys drinking a 40 or some Thunderbird on the corner and the police. The drinkers would put their beverage in a bag, and the police would pretend not to notice.
No harm, no foul.
This allowed the drinkers to continue what they were doing, as long as it didn’t hurt anyone; and allowed the police to spend their time on more important issues.
To implement his plan, Bunny found an abandoned stretch of row houses. It shouldn’t be too hard to find something similar in New Orleans these days. He rounded up all the corner boys, all the dope slingers, all the mid-level dealers, and took them to this area. He told them that in this area, they could sell all the dope they wanted. The police would not interfere, and would, in fact, stand watch to make sure the place didn’t get violent. The corner boys had to leave their guns at home, though.
The corner boys called the place Hamsterdam.
Drastic. But the war on drugs, and all the crap as a result of said war, requires drastic action.
He even bused in the dope fiends.
Sure, there were problems. But there was a lot of good that came out of this. People that lived in neighborhoods that formerly had open-air drug markets could come out at night. Kids were skipping rope on sidewalks normally filled with runners and touts. Folks were sitting on their stoops, talking to their neighbors.
Manny “Chevrolet” Bruno proposed a new Storyville for New Orleans. A place where gambling and prostitution were legal and taxed.
Why not go a step farther?
Why not have a Hamsterdam?
Pick some part of New Orleans that’s way below the flood plain that probably shouldn’t be rebuilt. Put strict boundaries around the area, and give it a buffer zone from populated areas. Guard it. Have health care workers there to give clean needles and tests and inoculations.
And allow hard drugs to be sold and used there.
You got a better idea?
This will isolate what is probably the primary cause for most of the violence in our city away from Joe Citizen.
If a slinger is caught selling or touting anywhere but Hamsterdam, they get the book thrown at them.
In the immortal words of Stacy Head, zero tolerance, outside of Hamsterdam.
Or we could just keep doing what we’ve been doing. Yeah, hows that workin’ out fo ya?
“The cops also encourage the residents to report criminal activity, but the West Siders are having none of it. "My cousin Billy Gant cooperated," one resident reports. "Went downtown and testified. He deader than Tupac today."
Or we could do nothing.
“Why you got to go and fuck with the program?" – Fruit
And we see where that will go.
"From the looks of things," Freamon adds, "Stringer Bell's worse than a drug dealer." "He's a developer," chimes in Prez.
Maybe we could just get Omar and his crew to come down.