The Geography of Illegal Drugs

The Geography of Illegal Drugs

The Geography of Illegal Drugs

The Geography of Illegal Drugs


The nightly news and other media provide a constant reminder of illegal drug transport over American borders and along routes between various U. S. cities. The general public is well aware that law enforcement efforts to address the foreign supply and trafficking of illegal drugs into the United States is an ongoing battle. This useful and readable compendium gives a fascinating account of how illegal drugs are transported into and around the United States and throughout its neighborhoods. Criminologist and geographer George F. Rengert takes a unique approach to the problem of illegal drug distribution and U. S. drug markets. Using maps and charts to illustrate his findings, Rengert applies spacial diffusion models to the illegal drug trade and explains why certain drugs are transported and found in different parts of the country. For example, the highest concentration of marijuana plants is not on either coast, but rather across the middle of the United States- throughout what is known as the corn belt. At the local level Rengert assesses the patterns and processes that interconnect drug sales and neighborhood deterioration and change. The book also addresses the important issues of how illegal drugs in this country operate on wholesale and retail levels and ways in which law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels contend with this widespread problem. Using ethnographic material to provide real-life examples, Rengert explores how drug dealers on the street expand spatially and predictably in their neighborhoods. He illustrates how this knowledge helps law enforcement in efforts to get these drugs off the streets.


We have a problem in the United States: it is called an illegal drug problem. We have another problem as well: we like to blame the first problem on someone else and want to use force to solve it. As a result, we call our efforts to solve our illegal drug problem a "war on drugs." War means using force on an outside enemy--but do we have an outside enemy? What if the enemy is us? Then, in declaring a war on drugs, we have declared a war on ourselves.

Some people claim that we would not have an illegal drug problem if citizens of foreign countries would stop producing these illegal drugs and smuggling them into our nation. We have gone into some of these countries and declared war on the growers of drugs that are illegal in the United States. Herbicides have been sprayed on fields producing marijuana and the coca plant in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The most widely publicized of these efforts was the spraying of paraquat on marijuana fields in Mexico. When marijuana sprayed with paraquat is smoked, it can produce permanent lung damage. Have we declared war on ourselves?

Turkey, in cooperation with the United States government, succeeded in curtailing its opium production. The result was a rise in the price of opium in the shortrun and an increase in production in the neighboring countries of Iran and Afghanistan. These countries are now profiting greatly in the opium trade. The government of Iran is an avowed enemy of the United States. Have we declared war on ourselves?

Finally, we hear community leaders declare that there would not be a drug problem if outsiders would not bring drugs into their communities. Again, it is someone else's fault; supposedly we should solve the drug problem by attacking the strangers who are the mid-to high-level distributors bringing drugs into our neighborhoods and cities. In the meantime, most people are killed or victimized by people within their own neighborhoods. Crime prevents investment in inner-city neighborhoods by threatening property values, endangering lives, and increasing the costs of doing business in the city. In our nation's capital, an average of one youth a day has been shot or stabed in their own neighborhood, an unprecedented level of juvenile assaults that police atributed to turf bat-

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