City Desk

Keepin’ Brightwood Park Safe?

The MPD established a drug free zone for the duration of July in Brightwood Park. A heavy MPD presence followed the red fliers (re: lots of white guys in flak jackets making more trouble for the neighborhood than the dealers they replaced), and now the dealers have gone back to work in front of the corner take-out at 5th and Kennedy.

Evidence that things in the neighborhood are back to normal and that the drug free zone was a waste of (non-recycled?) paper: I walked off the bus yesterday and into a heated public dispute over the price of joints. The seller wanted $15 each, the buyer only wanted to pay $10. There was some yelling, some good dealer/bad dealer, some bravado-fueled hustling, but then they settled on $12 a joint, and everybody walked away with what he wanted. And, I might add, no one gave a shit that I saw it all go down.

I realized after watching yesterday's exchange that the atmosphere of danger–at least in Brightwood Park–is as much a  product of the MPD's presence as it is the viral hopelessness that they established generations ago with their crackdowns. In the few months that my girlfriend and I have lived in the neighborhood, we've only been scared a handful of times. The first was when red fliers showed up–overnight it seemed–on every light pole in the neighborhood. The second time was when we watched eight cops in five cars bust a teenager for selling pot outside a convenience store.

In other words, we didn't feel threatened until the cops showed up and told us to feel threatened.

The idea that cops are the problem contradicts theories that a heavy police presence discourages crime, but truth be told, I've almost always felt safer in the company of drug dealers than cops. Supra-citizenship lends itself to abuse, but drug dealers–at least the small-timers in our neighborhood–are live-and-let-live capitalists who have a stake in maintaining some sort of neighborhood equilibrium; while cops have every reason to stir shit up.

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  • DCer

    I find it impossible to believe that you've "always" felt safer in the company of drug dealers- in fact I think that statement is on par with saying that "you feel safer with the Ku Klux Klan than the police." It reflects so badly on you that I can't imagine you'd write it out without cringing at what a douche you sound like.

    In the last 5 months:
    1. Drug dealers fired guns 3 separate times and one time, as near as we can tell, it was an accidental discharge in their house.
    2. Drug dealers told a nice young lawyer on our block that they hoped she'd get raped that night.
    3. One drug dealer told the mother of his daughter, in full view of us, that she was a "N****R C**T" and she could "Eat a d**k." And then proceeded to repeat "N****R C**T" until she left the sidewalk in tears. THE MOTEHR OF HIS DAUGHTER.
    4. They sat passed out in a car with the engine running parked so poorly that looked almost like they drove it while passed out.
    5. They beat up a 13 year old kid on the playground because he was acting tough. 25 year old men, beat up a child.

    So, you admit that you love the DC KKK Mike Riggs, we get it, you're a racist scumbag. Go back to Alabama or Mississippi and never come back here. You are human filth.

  • Michael

    Agree with DCer.

    You've been scared twice and once was when some red flyers appeared on telephone poles? Really?

    Also while smoking pot doesn't mean one moves on to the harder drugs, it is usually typical for a pot peddler to move on to selling harder drugs - as you said they're capitalists. Whatever sells more and at a higher price is what they're going to peddle. While you may be fine with some guys selling weed, how are you going to feel when they're peddling H?

    Do you know what the cops are stirring up? The fact that people are dealing drugs illegally out in the open. Wow. What a concept.

    Work to change the laws regarding drugs but until then enforcing the law isn't stirring shit up. It's enforcing the law.

    I hope you didn't get paid for writing this - yeah yeah, it's all content to get me to look at your advertisements, but I don't shop.

  • eric

    is it april fools day?

  • Brooke

    C'mon! What bullshit. Yes, DC police can be as corrupt and destabilizing as drug dealers and yes, I think busting smalltime dealers of weed is a complete national waste, but to be so naive as to think that organized crime creates safe neighborhoods in DC is heinous. Look at the history of this city! (I assume you're not from here). The violence and crime is rooted in the drug trade. Rather than root for the virtues of thugs, argue for more effective policing. Your article reveals how conceited, pompous and utterly clueless you are.

  • Brooke

    Mike Riggs is a transplant from Deland, Florida (Just outside of Orlando). Deland, Florida? You move here a year ago from Deland, Florida and now you are an authority on organized crime in DC? DC is listening my friend! Bring us your Orlando wisdom!

  • Mike Riggs

    Why do I feel safer around drug dealers than cops? For one, I'm a drug user. And due to the policies put in place by people who think they know what's best for an entire country, drug dealers are the only people from whom I can purchase my recreational substances. But there are a lot of other reasons, too, and you can find them here, here, here, here, here, and here.

    Are many of the drug dealers in DC scum? If you say so. The ones I've met (and from whom I've bought drugs), have been nice people. But of course, they've also been white people. And white people don't have to worry about drug laws, especially in cities with a large number of impoverished black people. Though Central Florida is a cultural backwater compared to DC, it was a good place for me to observe the racial disparities in the enforcement of drug laws. A white meth maker/dealer gets caught, he gets probation. A black meth user gets caught, and he serves at least a few years. I've been caught with drugs before, and I've done drugs in public before, and believe it or not, I got off with an undocumented warning, both times. But in DC, we (or must I say "y'all" until I've been here TK amount of years?) force blacks to go back into their communities to rat each other out to the cops.

    Not only is it a waste of resources to hamper the drug trade--because it is, and has been since its inception and in every way conceivable, a failure--(I hope in between typing up those elegant comments and googling my name, a few of you conducted some drug war research or at least engaged those critical thinking skills--No? I can't say I'm surprised) it's also a violation of our natural rights (only a few of which are protected by the Constitution).

    Where's the outrage over the destruction wreaked by anti drug laws? Or has that never crossed anyone's mind, that the ruffians you see are a product of a system that punishes blacks more than whites, when it punishes whites at all?

    Man, if I were black, or Hispanic, and I kept getting fucked because my neighbors knew what was best for me, I'd probably call someone a cunt, too. Thank god I'm white and nobody gives a fuck what I do with my money or my time.

  • David

    That was a ballsy response, Riggs. I disagree with nearly all of your arguments but I give you much credit for being honest about your viewpoint. With the comically overwrought commenters on most blogs (ahem, ahem DCer), it takes some chutzpah to put something like this out there when you know you're going to get flamed. I'll be interested to see what the responses to your response are.

  • Michael

    You go on a rant about black people and the disparity with which they are treated, but you admit you buy your drugs from white people. Hey Mike! Support your community. Why are you choosing to buy from white dealers instead of the ones right outside your doorstep?

    "Are many of the drug dealers in DC scum? If you say so."

    Have you noticed the murder rates in DC? Do you think that's all because someone said something about someone else's momma? Hey Mike, here's a clue: It's mostly over drugs, and not users, but dealers. But hey, they're nice people, right? Oh that's right you don't know any of them - you only know the white drug dealers you do business with.

    Walk your happy ass into Sursum Corda and, if you come out after asking if you can make a business transaction, then you can report to us how friendly they were. They shoot 14 year old girls execution style if they believe they even dared witness other shootings. I've an entire list of places where drugs are sold that you can go and try to make friends with the people selling them. That'd be a great story by the way: Mr. Friendly: A white recreational drug user oes into the deepest reaches of DC's drug culture to see how many friends he can make.

    Maybe in 20 years you can even do a reunion story. Never mind, you wouldn't last 20 minutes but go ahead and prove me wrong. The tip was free after all.

    Of course now you've moved your argument from some ridiculousness about being scared because some construction paper appeared on telephone poles to disparity in punishments for blacks and whites who break the fucking law. Is it a dumb war? Sure. Is it still the law? Absolutely. Want me to feel sympathy for your plight in a still somewhat racist country? Don't break the fucking law and then cry about the punishment you received for breaking the fucking law. Oh and don't blame the cops, blame the Mayors and Governors and District Attorneys. Blaming the cops is like blaming a referee for calling a foul ball.

    Guess what, Mike? Millions of black people don't choose to sell drugs. They stick with school, get jobs, contribute to their communities, raise children, and so on. You know why? It's not because they were born without the black-people-have-to-sell-drugs-gene that you seemingly believe is inherent (how fucking racist is that by the way) in AfAms, but it's because that they realize that if they broke the fucking law they would be punished for it. Seriously? "the ruffians you see are a product of a system that punishes blacks more than whites," you actually wrote that? How are they a product of anything other than choosing the easy way out (peddling drugs and hanging around all day doing much of nothing)? They're a product of intellectual laziness and get-rich-quick-be-a-cool-gangsta ridiculousness.

    Want to write an in-depth article on the disparity between sentencings for blacks and whites? Do so, but don't start out with some ridiculous half-thought-out blog then get called on its ridiculousness, then try to blame the readers and commentators because they aren't outraged at a sentencing disparity you didn't mention at the outset as being the cause of your anger.

    P.S. That snitch wasn't forced, he chose to become an informant, but nice hysteria nonetheless.

  • Stating the Obvious

    "In other words, we didn’t feel threatened until the cops showed up and told us to feel threatened."

    That's like saying that I wouldn't feel threatened by cancer if it weren't for those damn doctors. The cancer is still there, you just don't know about it. Last time I checked sticking your fingers in your ears and going, "LALALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" isn't the best way to go through life.

    "I’ve almost always felt safer in the company of drug dealers than cops."

    Try going out and buying drugs across the river and see if you feel safer. It would be great to see if you make it back in one piece.

  • reuben

    Kudos-Mike-for your spot on assessment of what Michael calls a (I pause for a moment here) "still somewhat racist country"- and its oh so equal drug laws....
    America ain't feeling the truth these days (maybe it never has) -which makes your words all the more valuable.

  • Michael

    Reuben - did you fail reading comprehension?

    First of all, drug laws are just laws, perhaps you meant to speak to sentencing disparities, you know, unless you can point to a law for black people and a law for white people.

    Second - yes, the US is still somewhat racist. Is it completely racist? Well considering we have a black Secretary of State and a black man who is either going to be President or will come damned close (depending on how he runs his campaign) I'd say we certainly aren't all racist. Considering blacks and whites live and work right next to each other day in and day out I'd offer we aren't all racists. Are there racist whites? Yep. Racist blacks? Yep. And so on for Chinese and Slavs and Mexicans and so on and so forth.

    Last - he didn't start out talking about disparities in sentencing. He started out being afraid of construction paper but wanting to kiss and hug with friendly drug dealers, then went on to make a ridiculous characterization that all drug dealers are just friendly jokester capitalists and are only thug murdering bitches "if [we] say so..."

  • Mr. T in DC

    Without rehashing any specifics, I'm going to weigh in and join the chorus of those appalled by this essay. Provocative? Yes. Reasonable? Logical? No.

  • Ernest

    There’s nothing more Philistine, more bourgeois, more conformist, more ovine than this drug business. I’m really against it. Fortunately, the better and brighter minds of ordinary Americans are far removed from the phenomenon.

    As for the drug dealers, I suppose the law enforcement could use some finesse here, e.g., supress the mean and vicious ones yet show leniency toward the agreeable and friendly. The most the police should do towards the latter is to delicately admonish them, and possibly to tactfully persuade to leave their foolish trade in favor of joining a community college, a university or getting a law abiding job of some sort.

  • reuben

    Sorry, I forgot that racism was dead now...

  • Michael

    I see you are still failing reading comprehension.

  • David

    Clearly, Ernest is a big fan of the modifiers. I counted at least a dozen in his post. Can anyone else find more?

  • Andrew

    If Mike doesn't feel safe around cops because he's a drug user, then that should have been mentioned in the post in the first place - just like if he was writing about, for example, how gun control was bad and he was a hunter.

  • Mike Riggs

    For starters, I didn't defend executions or violence, but I did make the mistake of assuming that City Desk readers recognized that the violence associated with the drug trade is the legacy of the drug war.

    It's one thing to criticize the use or sale of drugs (non-prescription drugs, that is, because I'd have a hard time believing that every commenter above has abstained from any sort of prescription drug use), but it's quite another to deny that the violence that occurs over drugs has its roots in regulation.

    When is the last time any newspaper in the U.S. topped its front page (or its metro section) with a story about gangs waging turf wars over alcohol? My guess would be 1933, the same year Congress decided to passed the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of alcohol.

    Is race a pertinent issue when discussing drugs? Of course. Does the fact that I believe blacks suffer more than whites in the war in drugs mean that I'm morally obligated to buy my drugs from blacks? No, especially since I built my contacts at a predominantly white school and while working in a predominantly white industry. Am I morally obligated to castigate drug dealers? No, I said what I said about the Brightwood Park dealers because national evidence shows that a heavier police presence in a neighborhood with a prevalence of drug use is followed by an increase in drug-related violence. And this is true in most black market industries. (Food for thought: Would organ stealing be such a popular trope if it were legal to sell one's organs?)

    Also, I don't remember positing that blacks are genetically predisposed to selling drugs. That Michael jumped to that conclusion from mine (cops are making the violence worse) is another reminder that I shouldn't have assumed that City Desk readers know anymore than what they were fed during their time in the D.A.R.E. program. I do, however, believe that certain identity groups in certain geographies are culturally pre-exposed to involvement in the drug trade.

    And while it pains me to admit that I'd be sad if all the dealers I know went out and got "real jobs," it boosts my spirits to think that if the drug war ended tomorrow, the work of drug dealers would be no less legal, socially acceptable, or lucrative than the work of pharmacists.

    And lastly, yes, I have a dog in this fight. But I don't think that my drug use negates the legitimacy of my argument. Unless Andrew wants to posit that ethnic and religious minorities, women, transgendered men and women, and others are banned from railing against discrimination simply because it affects them more than it does middle class white males.

  • Michael

    Mike you should do some research into the very real turf wars over alcohol and tobacco and the very illegal activities that go into controlling it before making assumptions that if drugs were legal that violence would go down.

    Assuming that were drugs legalized that there'd be no violence isn't a logical step you can make. The violence associated just shifts to a different demographic.

    Not to mention that were drugs legalized the petty dealer would be out of a job and with no skill set what's he or she going to turn to? If drugs were legalized it would be that trained pharmacist, or someone in a similar position, that would control their distribution, guided by a full set of reglations and taxations.

    I'm betting that what those petty dealers turn to at that point isn't college though. They deal drugs because it's easy to make money at it, not because they fervently believe in the right of all people to get as high as they want. It's a crime of opportunity. Remove that opportunity and they will still commit crimes, just different ones, like robbing your ass when you walk out of CVS with a bag of dope.

    Then selling it to someone who can't afford CVS' pot prices.

    Also do all CP bloggers routinely insult their readership?

  • reuben

    So what is your solution, Michael?
    I like the line from "The Wire" when (then) Officer Carver said- "You can't call the shit a war. Wars end."

  • Mike Riggs

    Michael: You cite a story about cigarette trafficking from southern states with lax regulation to northern states with excessive regulation as evidence that deregulation creates more problems than it solves? Unless you have a better example, that Post story proves my point, as well as brings up a new point about the issues facing interstate commerce.

    And while I may have waxed idealistic when I said, "[T]he work of drug dealers would be no less...", I'm not kidding when I say that ending the drug war would change the way we look at poverty. We'd need only a fraction of the billions we've invested--annually and since the late '60s--in locking people up, to co-fund (along with the states) rehabilitation programs nationwide. Think of the number of men and women who would taste freedom for the first time in over a decade if we commuted mandatory minimum sentences. And with the drug war over, we'd have the money to help them get back on their feet.

    Would there still be criminals? Of course. But are all drug dealers lazy? I've met dealers who work a full time job on top of dealing--driving cabs, working in the service sector, in government, in the arts--and their knowledge of different types of drugs would make them a valuable asset in the new economic sector of legal recreational substance sales.

    Poverty and crime will still be issues, because their roots extend into the failure of the public school system, and a number of other government-backed failed social experiments.

    But ending the drug war is a good place to start.

    [As to insulting readers--it's hard to keep one's cool when called human waste, a kkk-sympathizer, ignorant southerner, etc.,etc. Nevertheless, I'll try and curb future temptations to respond to anonymous commenters with their own level of courtesy.]

  • Ernest

    Let's not overcomplicate the issue. Criminalizing drugs serves the dual purpose of creation of jobs in law enforcement and keeping the drug trade inclined “identity groups in certain geographies” from branching out into much worse, more dreadful crimes. The former (not unlike criminalization of Latino migration) also ensures that a significant chunk of potentially crime prone population is out of the harm’s way by being safely engaged at the expense of the taxpayer. In sum, from the view of those in power, the illegal drug trade is a lesser evil, apparently. Ultimately, it’s all about keeping the populace under a tighter control, of course.

  • Stating the Obvious

    I love how the argument has subtly shifted from Mike Riggs being an idiot and saying that he feels safer in the company of (white) dealers who somehow magically keep the neighborhood at equilibrium then cops who enforce the law and aren't the ones robbing/stealing/murdering. Maybe you should go back to Reason and polish up a bit more....

  • Phil

    $15 for a joint?

    Now, that's a crime.

  • Mike Riggs

    Phil: Agreed. An example of price gouging if ever there was one.

  • Bill

    I wonder if there is money back guarantee? There should be: If customer is not completely satisfied, the dealer issues full refund no questons asked.

    I hear in the sex industry they're already doing that.

  • Lulu

    I'll give you a refund little weasel.

  • Ernest

    Don't fuss, Madam. William was only joking. Isn't it right, Bill?

  • dc_publius

    Just because they didn't shot you in the back (yet) doesn't mean they are keeping you safe. The 'small timers' you are talking about are the same people who steal your bicycle and hold up people at knife point at night. (Dealing doesn't pay much for small timers)

    Being scared of fliers and police presence instead? Completely irrational.