Burden and Policy

Posted on Friday, October 21 2005 by Heather Brandon

Bravo for the new “anti-gang bill” that has passed in the Massachusetts State Senate. It’s great. No, really, it is. If witnesses are afraid to come forward for lack of proper protection, then maybe this new legislation will make a difference.

As much as I’m in favor of cracking down, I’m also in favor of… oh, say… rational thought. Fact-gathering. Analysis. Conversation. Brain-storming. Actual problem-solving. As opposed to grand-standing, rhetorical speechifying, and policy-slinging.

Today and tomorrow at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, there is a conference called “Illicit Drugs: Burden and Policy.” An important element, or premise, of the conference is that drug problems do not begin and end in the city. They are merely concentrated in the city. If gangs and drugs are closely related—as the law enforcement professionals are telling us—then we must look at the whole picture of the drug trade, including its consumption and causes for it to flourish in a given area.

It would be so nice if policy-makers, leaders and law enforcement professionals from urban western Massachusetts could be found attending this conference, which is “organized to bring law enforcement groups; state agencies; state and city representatives; and national experts with creative talent, to meet the drug scourge head on.” Ongoing discussions, and short-term next steps, are part of the plan. This is what we need here, if we can take a moment to think.

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