Tag Archives: addicts

Should Drugs be Legalized?

This should be justified as, should recreational drugs be legalized? With Vancouver’s recent spate of gangland shootings (13 in less than three weeks) this topic has come up that they’re fighting over drug money. A very good supposition and though there are those that say it has to do with pot, I’m guessing there’s a full gamut and the relatively cheaper marijuana is at the bottom of the list, which is topped by crack cocaine, crystal meth and heroin.

So, should drugs be legalized? Remember prohibition, when alcohol suddenly became illegal (having been drunk for years) and the religious right screaming temperance? Of course there were some legitimately good reasons for limiting alcohol intake. The Wild West gained its moniker for a good reason and the TV series Deadwood is not far off the mark, when only men came to new areas to mine gold or trap or work in lumber mills. Vancouver’s own early history is so colored, with the first women in the townships being the bar girls and First Nations women, sometimes married to a lonely man.

But prohibition only meant that what people wanted now had to be procured through illegal means. The underground became more established and organized crime ran booze in from various areas. Rum runners became a common aspect of the prohibition years in the early 20th century. Prohibition did linger in that there are now certain laws around the consumption of alcohol. 

Once alcohol was legalized the only way organized crime could make money off of it was to bring in far larger quantities at cheaper rates. Or say, smuggle tobacco and the far more lucrative and illegal drugs.

So yes, if we legalize all those illicit drugs, we take the cash crop away from the gangs and put it in the hands of the government. Marijuana, which is far less nasty than alcohol in its affects on humans should be legalized to save the cops time for the important issues. Like the drug addled crimes of addicts breaking into homes and cars for their next fix. They don’t tend to do that on marijuana.

So let’s say we legalize all drugs. The cost goes down for the drug, which takes down the cost of law enforcement and break-ins. The price of health care might be the same or might go down. It may not be as fun to take if the drug is no longer illegal. Will there still be addicted people? Yes, but maybe fewer. And they won’t be as stigmatized. Well, maybe. After all, we do have alcoholics in all walks of society and there is still a stigma, but many of them hold down jobs to pay for their habits. They’re less likely to be breaking into someone’shome or car with readily available and cheap liquor. Ask the lawyers and business people who are alcoholics. (Note: this is just an example of a few professions but like I said, it’s in all walks of life.)

There is another aspect. Yes, it’s sad to see people addicted and this often speaks to underlying problems, many of which can be tracked back to one form of abuse or another. So the money saved in crime prevention can be put towards mental health, and the cost and distribution of drugs lessens. It would take time to implement but it can work. This last aspect is that we stop controlling another person’s decisions and let them be responsible to themselves. It’s not perfect and we need laws with which society must function. But changing some of the laws on drugs could lessen the gang crime and the substance abuse.

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Drugs, Thugs and Hugs

Vancouver is starting a community court as an attempt to stop filling up the court system with repeat criminals who happen to be drug addicts and stuck in the perpetual cycle of addiction>money>crime>drugs>addiction.

There are several stats that contribute to trying something new. I’ve always contended that our criminal justice system is broken. The Downtown Eastside is considered the poorest postal code in Canada, as well as having the worst and largest number of addicts. Vancouver suffers from a high number of crimes ranging from car to house break-ins. Many of these can be contributed to addicts looking for that fix and needing money. So in their jittery, drug addled state, they trash cars, or steal purses and backpacks or invade homes.

I’m not speaking speculatively but as someone who has been a victim of these crimes. I’m not particularly rich, don’t drive an expensive car and don’t live in a ritzy neighborhood. That doesn’t matter in Vancouver. When I had a Honda Civic (the most stolen car in BC at the time) it was broken into sixteen times. Licence plate, registration, sunglasses, ashtray w/coins, first aid kit, half a tire jack, gear shift knob, cassette tapes, etc. were taken. Some can be contributed to kids and car thieves (gear shift knob, licence) but the ease of getting into a Honda was well known.

Although the break-ins happened all over the city, the majority happened where I live in East Vancouver. My next door neighbor, who at one point had a nice heritage house, became an addict. We had no proof that he was the perpetrator but the crime rate on our street was very high while he could still pay the mortgage on his place. My apartment (part of a heritage house) was broken into when I was away but my landlords were watching it and at home that night. We’re pretty sure it was the drug addict neighbor who even seemed to be paying a couple of teenagers to scout out places.

Twice more my place has been invaded. The second time I was actually home and someone walked into my back door (facing into the back yard) and took my purse. I suspect it was my no longer homeowner neighbor who had lost his house to drugs. The last time was last year when some other addict crowbarred my French patio doors and stole my camera.

This happens time and time again in Vancouver and although some criminals are of a higher organization, most of these crimes are caused by drug addictions, homelessness and sometime mental health concerns. Locking up these petty criminals for a short time doesn’t solve the problem overall. Most get very minimal sentences and are back time and again in the courts.

The community court (that some are labelling Hugs for Thugs) is to deal quickly with the criminals, where they meet with a triage team of counsellors and/or social workers. They’re sentenced to varying degrees, where community work or reparation is included, and sometimes jail time. This court has just begun and has been successful in other geographic areas. It’s the first in Canada and hopefully, along with the safe-injection site, will help keep the crime down and maybe, just maybe get people off drugs and off the street.

We’ll need affordable housing, which there is a lack of for even people who are poor and not yet homeless, as well as those on drugs or suffering from mental health issues. But I wonder how it will work if the addicts don’t want to change. And I know, after talking to someone who was a police officer for 25 years, that those on crystal meth will be the hardest to reform. Crystal meth literally eats the brain, making those addicts the most violent and least likely to be able to get off the drug. They usually have a five-year lifespan from when they get addicted.

But considering the rampant crime and the ineffective court system for this problem, I’m willing to hope this could be a win-win situation, with everyone suffering less from crime and people getting off the street and off drugs.

The official community court, justice reform site: http://www.criminaljusticereform.gov.bc.ca/en/justice_reform_projects/community_court/index.html

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The Price of Vancouver: Car Crime Capital

Vancouver’s car crime status may have slipped recently but it was once car crime capital. More cars were stolen in the area and more cars broken into than most places in North America. Why? Well, being a port city perhaps those cars were shipped to parts unknown. Perhaps pirates came in to strip them of useful parts. Perhaps we have enough gangs of various persuasions who can resell them. I can’t speak to the car thefts per se, and haven’t done research but it was bad enough the police set up bait cars in various areas.

I do know that anyone who lived along routes in and out of the city often had their cars stolen (and one woman I talked to said her car had been stolen five times). That one is easy. Our inadequate public transportation system stops before the bars close. Anyone who comes in from any of the outlying areas: Surrey, Mission, Coquitlam, Whalley, etc., needs to find a way home afterwards. Bus and SkyTrain have stopped, taxis are too expensive, so let’s steal a car.

Break-ins on cars are easy to figure out too. Vancouver has the poorest postal code in Canada, which coincides with the Downtown East Side and the worst drug problems. Drugs=addicts=car break-ins. Pretty simple.

I once had a Honda Civic, the most stolen car in BC at the time, partly because it was the car to hot-rod for the young guys. My car was never stolen but it was broken into 15 times. In truth that included the stolen sunroof from the Nissan Sentra.

Here’s a list of some of the things stolen from that car:

  • half a tire jack
  • gear shift knob
  • prescription sunglasses
  • ashtray with coins
  • teeny tiny first aid kit
  • cassette tapes
  • car insurance
  • license plate
  • sunroof
  • stopwatch

If you add that up you’ll see it doesn’t equal 15, and many of those were stolen at the same time. My window was broken once and each of two door locks gouged out at different times. The door was left open after several of the break-ins (Civics were notoriously easy to get into) and I had to replace the car battery.

I lived in different areas and break-in had happened downtown, on the west side, central and East Vancouver, where I live now. But most of the vandalism happened because of my neighbour. Though we could never prove it, he broke in to numerous cars and houses. He foreclosed on his mortgage because it went up his nose or into his arm and the people who bought the house had ample evidence of drug use in the syringes and spoons left all over.

The crime rate went down when the neighbour disappeared. I also resorted to putting huge signs in my car window that said: STOP! This is East Van. You are thief # 14 15. There are no keys, money, drugs, CDs, jewels, condoms or children in this car. I don’t leave anything in the car these days but my window was broken two weeks back after about four years of no vandalism (except my place). I had one CD in the car, visible. That was a mistake and cost me $200 deductible to get the glass and moulding replaced. There are still enough drug addicts in the city and they’ll take anything any way they can to fuel their habits. And the federal government wants to close the one safe injection site.

The government really needs to weigh the cost to home and car owners in what they lose and have to replace from thefts, plus the cost of policing and investigating against the cost of a safe-injection site. I have a very strong feeling that the cost of one site is a lot less. And what does that site do? It takes the people off the street, keeps them from dying, gives them a chance to get their lives in control and maybe get off drugs, and it saves us a lot of crime. If an addict can hold down a regular job and not have to resort to crime and prostitution then they have a better chance of becoming a viable part of society and not a money sink. Until then, Vancouver will continue to have high break-in and vandalism rates and the poorest postal code.

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