The Dellums Taskforce came into being by initiative of the Honorable Ron
Dellums prior to his inaugeration as Oakland’s Mayor early in January, 2007.
Many citizens were mobilized to render advise on a very wide range of public
policy problems, among them, prevention of violence.
This link displays one of the recommendations that came out of a 17-member subcommittee of the taskforce--charged to recommend violence prevention measures available to the City of Oakland. The subcommittee approved this and all of its recommendations by unanimous vote.
The title of this recommendation is “Criminal Revenues: The Key to Controlling Gangs, Violence, and the Criminalization of Youth.” The rational for the recommendtation is as follows:
The financing plan for the recommended program is as follows:
Suplimental information supporting the recomendation follows.
A recent report of the Alameda County Death Reporting System for 2002-2004, is called “VIOLENCE IN OAKLAND: A Public Health Crisis.” The report provides statistical proof that the extraordinarily high homicide rate in Oakland is not just a youth problem. It shows that, for every age group, the homicide rate is extraordinarily high. The unmistakable inference to be drawn is that the high level of violence among children and youth is caused by the fact that extraordinarily large numbers of young people are growing up in contact with, and under the influence of adult criminals. Adult criminals recruit children into minor roles supporting adult criminal activities--such roles as lookouts and runners for drug peddling, prostitution, car theft, break-ins, and robberies. In these roles, youngsters are initiated in the skills and values of criminals and are pointed on course to spend the remainder of their lives in crime, violence, jail, and probation.
Clearly, measures directly targeted on turning young people away from the
criminal course are necessary. But such measures will have limited success
unless and until new, more effective measures are introduced to get adults to
quit crime and quit seducing young people into crime. This writing explains how
this can be done, and it proposes measures to do it. The proposed measures will
work because they go to the heart of the economic motive to crime: Adults are in
crime to make money. Unfortunately, crime pays - at the victim’s expense.
Enactment of the measures recommended here will make crime pay a lot less. When
it is harder to make a living in crime, fewer individuals will choose to
participate in it. Then, fewer adult criminals will be seducing youngsters into
Criminal gangs are inherently violent. Violence is THE way disputes are settled when, as is the case of illegal business, there is no recourse to law, law enforcement and courts for settlement of business disputes. Some violence follows the arrest or assassination of gang bosses when underlings compete to take over gang leadership. Some violence results when business deals go sour, or when one gang steals property from another, or when gangs compete for control of prostitutes or drug-market turf. Even violence that is not directly related to a specific gang activity is often an expression of gangster culture.
The measures described below are effective in reducing all such violence
because these measures attack gangsterism itself. They attack gangsterism by
shutting off revenues from drug trafficking, prostitution, and theft and
trafficking in stolen goods--the moneymaking activities that gangs thrive
In the remainder of this report, four principal recommendations are presented. They are set out in bolded type. Recommendations that are subordinate to the three principal recommendations are also bolded. Additional text provides background information explaining why the recommended measures will work to control crime and criminal violence. Such explanatory information is set out in plain text.
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First Recommendation: Make Drug Treatment and Cessation Counseling Readily Available on Demand
It may come as a surprise that this is the single most effective measure to cut criminal revenues, cut gang participation, and to cut gang violence. The reason drug treatment is so effective is that an estimated 80 % of illegal drugs is consumed by addicts. It follows that, if all local addicts were in treatment and recovery, 80% of the drug sales revenues that sustain local gangs would be cut off.
Making drug treatment available on demand would also dramatically reduce property theft, trafficking in stolen goods, and gang revenues from these activities. This is so because a large percentage of property thefts are committed by addicts. Many addicts are virtually compelled into thievery by the need to earn money to support their addictions--a cost that can run between $10,000 and $20,000 per year. Helping thieves break their addictions is a necessary first step in getting them out of crime and into legal employment. Without thieves to bring them stolen goods, gangsters engaged in the sale of stolen goods (so called “fences”) will be forced out of business as their inventories shrink, and their sales revenues decline.
Both drug use and the seduction of new drug users will decline in consequence
of making drug treatment readily available on demand. Why? Because drug peddlers
know that their earnings from selling the illegal drugs depend on both 1) the
amount of profit realized in each sale, and 2) how often they can make a sale.
It takes time and effort to seduce a person to drug use, and more time and
effort to develop a casual user into a profitable addict. When addicts can
quickly go into treatment, drug peddlers won’t be able to make enough sales to
justify the increased sales effort. Many peddlers will abandon the business, and
drugs will be much less available than now.
Without the changes proposed above, many thieves will continue in addiction and thievery, supplying their fences as slaves of their chemical dependence--enriching gang bosses and sustaining gangsterism.
• • • • •
Second Recommendation: Initiate Programs to Rescue Individuals from Prostitution
A little history explains the power of this measure to control gangsterism and gang violence. Ever since the 1930’s, when Lucky Luciano introduced the Mafia to heroin as a device for controlling prostitutes, the addictive drugs have been used in American cities for that purpose. Addiction is a barrier to employability in other occupations, and so it mercilessly shackles prostitutes to their degrading trade. At the same time, addiction motivates prostitutes to their work: They, like the property thieves mentioned above, have to work to support a habit that may costs $10, 000 to $20,000 per year. So, addicted prostitutes are doubly exploited as “money cows” for the crime syndicates, enriching them both as drug consumers and as prostitutes.
Because a large percentage of addicts are, as described above, trapped in prostitution, and because criminal gangs derive double revenues from those addicted prostitutes, society benefits in three ways from rescuing women from prostitution: first, drug use and the associated health and social pathologies are reduced; second, prostitution and its associated health and social pathologies are reduced; and third, the revenues that sustain local gangs and gang violence are reduced.
Unfortunately, examination of present practices in regard to control of prostitution is likely to show both that: 1) substantial public costs are being incurred for police work, and 2) the employed measures are having little, if any effect on the institution of drug-enforced prostitution and the cash flow it generates for support of gangs and gang violence. Making drug treatment readily available to prostitutes is an essential first step toward enabling prostitutes to escape from their enslavement to criminal gangsters. Strengthening other social services for prostitutes would further aid their escape.
Drug treatment and cessation counseling are not expensive. Research by RAND Corporation has shown that savings in criminal justice costs more than make up for increased expenditures for public health measures of drug control. Similarly, increased expenditures for social services to prostitutes will prove less costly than police measures for control of prostitution and more effective in helping prostitutes escape from their enslavement by criminal gangs. As they escape, the revenues prostitutes now produce for the support of gangs and gang violence will disappear.
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Third Recommendation: Improve the Policing of Street Drug Trafficking
Presently employed police measures for control of street drug trafficking are not producing satisfactory results: The evidence is: 1) Complaints abound that, when street drug-trafficking is reported, police response-time is slow; 2) The time between a youngster’s first introduction to drug sales activities and his first arrest for involvement in the drug traffic is far too long.
The objective should not be simply to arrest and convict young drug criminals. Following that mistaken objective, our criminal justice system has filled our prisons with mostly nonviolent petty drug users and low-level traffickers, all serving long terms. This has given our country the world’s highest incarceration rate, and, as a further consequence, all social pathologies have proliferated.
Instead, the objective of local police work should be to break up drug gangs and discourage participation in gangs while, at the same time, avoiding long-term incarceration of low-level gang participants. The proper question, is “how can first-arrests be made earlier in a participant’s gang activity and more of a learning and behavior-altering experience? Here are a few suggestions:
First, every scene of street drug-trafficking should be photographed for identification of involved individuals and their roles. This should be followed immediately by the arrest of all traffickers, including children used as lookouts. Low-level arrestees should then be detained the maximum time allowed without bringing charges. During that time, young arrestees should have prison visits to learn the sorry experiences of individuals convicted of trafficking. All young arrestees should be counseled against drug use, preferably by recovered addicts. They should be warned of the life-ruining effects of addiction. Girls should be warned of the danger of entrapment in drug use and prostitution. All drug using arrestees should be offered drug treatment and cessation counseling.
Interrogation and counseling should take place, both by police and
social workers assigned to suppression of gang participation. Police
interrogation of young arrestees should focus on discovery of higher-level gang
leaders--to gather testimony and evidence necessary to indictments and
convictions. Social workers should attempt to discover primary and secondary
associates of the young arrestees, and where appropriate, discovered individuals
should be recruited to help correct the behavior of the arrestees. All of these
things should happen in quick succession.
For Oakland, the power of the measures recommended above to affect change would be greatly enhanced if they could be undertaken jointly with other Bay Area cities.
• • • • •
Fourth Recommendation: Implementation and Funding
Elsewhere in the world, it is well-established truth that drug treatment on demand can reduce all health and social pathologies associated with drug use and trafficking. Not less compelling evidence, from American experience, is set out in Michael Massing’s book. “The Fix” (University of California Press, 2000). Tragically, in recent years, we in America have made little use of this low-cost remedy for urban woes--and our health and social pathologies have proliferated.
To refocus attention on the powers of this underused remedy, our country needs a dramatic demonstration project. The great foundations and individual humanitarian donors are attracted to projects that demonstrate the effectiveness of low cost, innovative measures. They might value a project of the sort suggested above precisely for the lessons other troubled cities might learn from it.
For at least three reasons, Oakland is an ideal place for such a demonstration project. First, a spectacular turnaround in a city with Oakland’s “before” conditions would impress anyone. Second, we have a citizenry yearning for a solution for its crime problem. Third, we have an iconic new mayor, free of debt to anyone, especially the criminal element. That combination of circumstances might win donor support for a demonstration project here.
Research and planning should be undertaken immediately to assemble information needed to contract for grant support for a demonstration project in Oakland. At the same time, exploratory conversations with prospective donors should be initiated at the mayoral level.
Proper understanding of relevant facts is necessary to public support for sound public policy. With that thought in mind, myths sometimes met in the marketplace of ideas are identified below, and arguments that may be useful in dispelling them are offered.
First, myths about addiction: Addiction is NOT the result of moral fault or
lack of character. Addicts do NOT love their drugs and, under proper
circumstances, they do NOT reject treatment. Criminals who profiteer on the
misery of addicts carefully promote myths to the contrary. It helps them control
their most profitable customers.
In fact, pharmacologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists define drug addiction as a treatable disease with occasional relapse a common symptom. Many common diseases fit that definition. We don’t deny treatment to victims of those diseases. There is no moral basis for denying treatment to addicts.
Myth also alleges economic benefits from crime. In fact, local society gets none. As for prostitution and property theft, no new wealth is created. Those crimes simply redistribute existing wealth--to the benefit of criminals and the expense of their victims. The economic effect of drug trafficking is worse: Local drug sales are partially redistributive, in that a portion of local drug sales rewards local traffickers, pushers, and bribe takers, again at the expense of their local victims. Local drug sales also suck money out of the community. To continue supplying their victims, the inventory must be replenished. That benefits distant drug farmers, processors and traffickers who bring drugs to Oakland. Of course, the economic benefit that local drug criminals get from local drug sales is more than offset by the cost to our community in health and social pathologies generated by local drug sales. Bottom line? All crime costs the community: Only criminals benefit.
It is sometimes argued that criminal activities by a clique of Black drug traffickers should be tolerated as necessary to capital accumulation for further enlargement of the Black capitalist class. Whatever the benefits of a larger Black capitalist class might be, they are not worth the costs: 1) the prostitution of human beings, 2) the spreading of crippling addictions, 3) high incidence of crimes against persons and property, and 4) the mass criminalization and incarceration of youth. “Get Rich Quick” is precisely the false bait that lures youngsters into crime. If we want our kids to grow up and get rich, then we want them in school, learning legitimate skills they can use to improve their lives and their world.
If we want our Oakland to attract capital investment and new, legitimate job opportunities for our youngsters, we must work to make Oakland a good and safe place to invest and be in business--a place intolerant of crime--with an effective program to discourage it
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Federal Programs to Support Drug Prevention Programs of Other Entities
Drug Abuse Prevention
Community Partnership Demonstration Grant
This program provides funding to communities for the purpose of reducing the misuse of alcohol tobacco and other drugs (ATOD) through the building of coalitions of multiple agencies and organizations at the local level.
Cooperative Agreements for Drug Abuse Treatment Improvement Projects in Target Cities
This program's objective is to improve the quality and effectiveness of drug treatment services in to develop drug treatment systems providing high quality, patient-oriented, coordinated, and treatment which should be replicated by other cities.
Drug-Free Schools and Communities--National Programs
This program is designed to assist in drug and alcohol abuse education and prevention activities as authorized by the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986. Projects funded under this drug and alcohol abuse education and prevention, curriculum development, and model demonstration activities that address a national concern to reduce the use of drugs throughout the nation.
Gang-Free Schools and Communities; Community-Based Gang Intervention
The primary objective of this program is to prevent and reduce the participation of juveniles in the activities of gangs that commit crimes.
Interventions with Drug Abusing Parents--Drug Courts
The Drug Courts Program Office funds adult and juvenile drug courts. Adult drug courts often include parents whose substance abuse affects their children in a variety of ways. Drug court treatment for adults and juveniles may include family members. The drug court program for adults may produce drug free babies and more responsible parents for infants and other children of the family.
Model Comprehensive Drug Abuse Treatment Programs for Critical
Public Information on Drug Abuse--Information
This program provides leadership, coordination, and facilitation for the involvement of law enforcement in drug prevention and education programs. Technical assistance publications and information are provided to law enforcement agencies and the general public to assist in drug abuse prevention programs through DEA field offices. DEA is not a granting agency and does not fund outside programs.
Safe and Drug-Free Schools--State Grants
This program is intended to establish state and local programs of alcohol and drug abuse education and prevention coordinated with related community efforts and resources. Allocations are made to states and territories
Weed and Seed/Safe Havens
Operation Weed and Seed is a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to combating violent crime, drug use, and gang activity in high crime neighborhoods. The goal is to identify drug activity in high crime neighborhoods and then to ‘seed’ the sites with a wide range of crime and drug prevention programs, human service resources, and neighborhood restoration activities to prevent crime from reoccurring. The strategy emphasizes the importance of a coordinated approach, bringing together federal, state, and local government, the community, and the private sector to form a partnership to create a safe, drug-free environment.