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The Heroin Scene in Philly

Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in drug related arrests in the Philadelphia area. Five years ago, things were different. It was easy to score heroin. Now it's easy to get arrested or ripped off.

The Kensington area of the city was notorious. It was called the heroin capital of the East Coast. There were dealers on every corner shouting out their dope "brand" name. However, the dealers didn't "push" their product; they just competed with each other to get the business of people who where there to score; the other people were left alone.

Drug related violence was minimal at that time. It was a fairly peaceful, albeit, illegal business. The dope was clean, and the streets were safe for the most part. That was five years ago. So much has changed.

Now there are cops on every corner. People are getting arrested for possession of minute amounts of heroin. Understandably, dealers have grown paranoid with predictable results: the dope isn't safe, and the streets are less safe; drug-related violence has actually increased.

The customers are desperate and they will buy almost anything, so long as they don't get arrested or killed on the spot. As I made a buy last month, the dealer actually patted me down and held a gun to my head. It wasn't pretty. Everyone has the same thing on their minds: make the deal and get out as fast as possible. While you're on the street, it doesn't much matter if you're buying heroin or rat poison.

I understand the public concerns about drugs and drug dealing in the area. While I sympathize, I don't agree with the current police activity in Philadelphia. More time and money is being spent arresting and punishing small time dealers and users and less time is being spent dealing with real crimes, such as armed robbery and assaults.

I know my opinion isn't popular, but the facts are clear. Five years ago, there was a beneficial relationship between the dealers, the users, and the neighborhood. With drug law enforcement so lax, the area felt like a flea market. Today, anything goes and it is more dangerous than ever.

by Beth © 2002
Last Modified: 10 January 2004


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