'We're Just Fighting a Failed Drug War'

The Independent (London, England), November 12, 2009 | Go to article overview
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'We're Just Fighting a Failed Drug War'

Our crime reporter's job swap with his counterpart from the 'Baltimore Sun' has provoked a passionate debate on both sides of the Atlantic THE CRIME EXCHANGE A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Five days into The Independent's crime exchange with The Baltimore Sun and the series has elicited a remarkable response from readers of both papers. Here we publish a selection - of both good and bad.

Mark, welcome to our city. It is a place of many wonderful people and beautiful things. We're just fighting a failed drug war. Don't mind us. Write what you experience.


The plain fact is that London is reasonably (and no more than reasonably) successful at containing crime. Baltimore isn't. Hundreds of Baltimoreans die violently every year. Many thousands more are dissuaded from living or working in the city, permanently depressing its economy. This is a tragedy and a failure.False equivalence, and talk about crab cakes and neighbourhood restaurants, can't mask it.



I live in Baltimore county and have lived in and around the city of Baltimore for 33 years. Like any city, there are dangerous areas and challenges. But The Wire brought with it a horrible stigma, upon which people base their sole impression and understanding of this city.


I am a native of Baltimore. It's amazing how many people think the entire city of Baltimore is like The Wire. Yes, there are parts that resemble the neighbourhoods on that show, but there are also neighbourhoods that could grace a magazine cover. Then recently I returned to the city and I was shocked by West Baltimore especially ... it looks like a bomb was dropped on it.



Justin Fenton has visited Brixton, London, and Moss Side, Manchester, during his trip to the UK. He found that the areas' crime problems shared little in common with Baltimore.

This series has been a joy to read. I keep thinking about the tidy streets of Manchester while in the midst of a crime wave. Why can't we at least do this - tidy streets? I do not suggest this in jest. Crime destroys lives; dirty, trash-filled streets destroy a sense of hope in the future."


If you want to see gang and gun crime, go to Liverpool. There is a gang war going on between Croxteth and Norris Green.


To be honest, it's not too bad over here. The main problem is knife crime in London, gang on gang, but in comparison, it's not in the same murder league as the US, thanks to stringent gun laws, I guess.


The elephant in Britain's living room is the bad social housing. Bad management of properties means that instead of landlords sorting out the problems, the police are often dragged in to solve problems that are not part of their remit.


Crime is rising, but people seem to have lost all sense of proportion.



Mark wrote an article describing what the communities of Baltimore are doing to try to alleviate crime. He found many good organisations, but was told of apathy in some communities.

One of the reasons for the apathy you correctly describe is that people get tired of being ignored or treated like dirt when they call the police. When police consistently refuse to take reports or file charges, you give up. Eventually, I decided to take the time and energy I spent on trying to improve Baltimore, and divert it towards leaving Baltimore. I was born in Baltimore and love the city, but at a certain point it just becomes too much to handle.

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'We're Just Fighting a Failed Drug War'


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