What can we do about people selling drugs in our neighborhood?

by Renata
(New Mexico)

Since the people hanging out and selling stuff in our neighborhood don't live here, how can we handle this? They just walk around, avoid the police, and do their business right out in the open. The people buying aren't our neighbors either. I'm afraid we will have more shootings. We already had one pretty bad thing happen, and the people who are drunk or high go out of control with their cars and come up on the sidewalk. I'm tired of dope dealers on the street.

Editors' Reply: Well, all our good wishes to you as you try to fight this scary problem. You don't want drugs in your neighborhood because:

(1) If anyone from your neighborhood buys, you're only feeding the supplier and building a habit or an addiction that probably detracts from productivity.

(2) Hanging around on street corners for almost any reason, except catching a bus, isn't helpful for the neighborhood. There should be wonderful places, plazas, parks, and so forth for hanging around, but not on corners.

(3) Visible drug activity of any type is bad for property values and neighborhood perception in general.

(4) Violence sometimes flows from the drug dealing. It's lucrative, and sometimes someone else wants to displace your particular local dealer.

(5) We assume you're speaking about illegal drugs here, so the activity is illegal irrespective of its other characteristics.

Now, what to do. Involve the police, of course. Sometimes they say they have more important things to do, so it's very important to be insistent and persistent if you want the problem solved.

Have a neighborhood meeting and plead with the neighbors to call the police about any suspicious activity every time they see it happening, whether or not they actually see police show up. Police have to prioritize, and sometimes drugs come up as a lower priority, but some day they won't have anything else to do. Keep calling.

If you protect local kids or anyone else who is a seller, you can expect all the negative impacts of drugs in the neighborhood.

In cases where the buyers are locals, see if you can offer assistance in the form of referral to substance abuse programs. If they are teens and you know a parent, consider whether you should approach the parent directly.

Too many times, the buyers come from outside the neighborhood, which is exactly why neighbors must call the police each and every time they see it happening. You can't afford to be known as a place with so little law and order that people from outside your geography can go there to buy drugs.

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