I recently read an article entitled “Working ‘The Corner’” about drug abuse in Austin, Texas specifically in the neighborhood surrounding 12th and Chico streets, more commonly referred to as “The Corner”. The article brought up interesting points about how not only Austin deals with drug addiction, but actually on how it doesn’t deal with drug addiction.
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how persecution of drug crimes is being lifted in Seattle, Washington by their “LEAD” program and the results have been promising. Read anything about the last 15 years in Portugal since they abolished drug crimes and you will find only positive results. So why is it that we continue to lock up our addicts instead of providing them a solution?
Drug Trafficking and Drug Control in Austin, Texas
A large issue surrounding the particular neighborhood of The Corner is that no one can seem to agree what kind of action it would take in order to change it. There has been moderate success in the downtown area of Austin by utilizing “enhanced prosecution”, which is a focused effort to deal with drug offenders swiftly by bringing maximum prosecution for drug-related crimes. But is this really the answer?
“We understand we are not going to win,” says Dave McKichan, Austin’s police captain regarding the drug war in Austin.
The attitude from Austin’s police enforcement also leaves a lot to be desired. “We understand we are not going to win,” says Dave McKichan, Austin’s police captain regarding the drug war. Though this may sound harsh, as if the police department has given up, it’s not untrue. Austin has long been recognized as a central hub for drug trafficking in the south, pushing drugs as far as New York, but the real concern is the addicts themselves. What about them?
Bad Neighborhoods Don’t Mean Bad People
We often refer to drug-addled neighborhoods as “bad”. I think it’s unfortunate that people and families are oftentimes judged by the neighborhoods they live in and then victimized simply because of that fact. To be sure, neighborhoods such as The Corner in Austin are home to open air drug markets coupled with drug-related crime, but that does not mean that they are beyond saving.
When people fall into addiction, they can’t stop because the places they go and the people they know are surrounded by drug use. Neighborhoods such as The Corner are a prime example of this type of breeding ground. But that doesn’t mean that the people are bad or that that stigma can’t be changed.
Changing Austin, Texas From the Ground Up
In order for addicts to change the way they perceive their communities as well as surround themselves with different people — they need to be provided an environment filled with people who care and won’t rekindle their drug habits.
It’s evident that drug diversion programs such as LEAD in Seattle, where addicts are provided access to housing, jobs and other beneficial opportunities, lead to positive results. The results speak for themselves; given an environment where addicts are offered a choice, rather than a repercussion for their actions often affects to positive change.
Obviously, for big change to happen officials have to be involved. That includes city council members, lawmakers and even the judges themselves who decide how criminal punishment surrounding drugs should be dealt with. But we need more than a legislative change, we need a change in our own perception of addiction and how addicts can be dealt with. What are your thoughts on how we tread addicts?