View Full Version : Ret. Police Chief Calls for Some Legalization/Regulation of Drugs

04-06-2010, 09:36 AM
Drugs should be safely regulated, according to Peter J. Christ, a retired Town of Tonawanda police captain and advocate of legalization.

In no-win war on narcotics, a call for some legalization
Failures of prohibition put focus on new steps
By Dan Herbeck and Lou Michel
Updated: April 06, 2010, 8:27 am /
Published: April 06, 2010, 8:30 am

Every 18 seconds, on average, someone in the United States is arrested for a drug crime. The nation's jails and prisons are teeming with drug offenders.

Despite a drug war that costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year, drug abuse continues to be a serious problem.

That is why some people — including some former cops — believe that the nation needs to take a serious look at legalizing certain drugs.

• Related: Part I: Aren't the drug kingpins replaced? (http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/04/04/1008984/arent-the-drug-kingpins-replaced.html)

"Prohibition of drugs isn't working," said Peter J. Christ,cq a retired Town of Tonawanda police captain who is one of the founders of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization of ex-cops who advocate legalizing drugs.

"You're not going to stop people from using drugs," Christ said. "The best thing you can do is regulate it, and try to make it as safe as possible."

Others say legalization would only open up the floodgates for more drug abuse. They would rather see the war against drugs fought on another front — realistic treatment programs for drug addiction to reduce demand.

And the best way to start is by working with young people, the future customers of drug dealers.

"There's been an epidemic in the last year with these opiates, and it is particularly hitting adolescents and young adults ages 14 through 25," said Dick Gallagher, executive director of Alcohol and Drug Dependency Services, which runs nine addiction-treatment programs.

Sixty-three percent of teenagers, he said, get their first taste of narcotic prescription drugs from the family medicine cabinet. Many eventually end up hooked on heroin, which is cheaper and easily accessible.

But no matter where you stand on the issue of drug abuse, there is a consensus that putting drug dealers out of business through lengthy police investigations does not work as well as anyone would like.

"Over and over again'

Christ said he was not surprised to hear that drug problems continue in Buffalo's Lovejoy section, despite the crackdown that sent Frank "Fat Frank" Battaglia, the biggest pusher there, and many of his associates to prison.

"This goes on over and over again in neighborhoods and cities all over the country," Christ said. "Police say they're putting a dent in drug traffic, but they know the dealers they arrest will be replaced by others, right away."

According to Christ's organization, more than 1.7 million people were arrested on drug charges in 2008; more than 44 percent of those arrests were for marijuana possession. The figures came from an FBI study. Statistics for 2009 drug arrests are not yet available.

Three in four Americans believe that the war on drugs is being lost, according to a survey conducted by the Zogby polling organization during the last presidential election. And a Gallup poll taken last October found that 4 in 10 Americans now favor legalization of at least one drug — marijuana.

But other people — including some who work with addicts and have seen how addiction can shatter families — doubt that legalization would solve the problem of drug abuse.

Legalizing drugs such as crack cocaine and methamphetamine is not going to stop them from destroying individuals and families, said Gallagher and Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Gregory J. Savage. "I just don't think it is a good idea," Savage said. "You're sort of surrendering to the problem."

The war on drugs is expensive and frustrating, Gallagher acknowledged, but it must be fought. Giving people the green light to use heavily addictive drugs would make it easier for drugs to destroy "thousands, if not millions," of families, Gallagher said.

Two men who strongly oppose legalization are Steve Bevilacqua, an information analyst with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and Sal Valvo, a Buffalo narcotics detective who works on a DEA task force. Both were involved in the investigation that got Battaglia off the streets.

They said people in Lovejoy applauded police in 2006 when they saw them arresting Battaglia and his cohorts.

"We did make an impact in the neighborhood. I wish it lasted longer," Valvo said. "We're not naive enough to think that somebody won't come along to take [Battaglia's] place. But eventually, we'll get that guy, too."

Drug dealers are involved in a variety of crimes, many of them violent, said Charles H. Tomaszewski, resident agent in charge of Buffalo's DEA office. "The guys who are selling drugs now — if you legalize drugs, they aren't going to start an improve-our-neighborhood committee," he said. "They're going into other areas of crime."

Community approach

Many people interviewed for this article made comments similar to those of Lovejoy Common Council Member Richard A. Fontana. Hard drugs should stay illegal, he said, but he would like to see more study of the proposal of legalizing marijuana. He also feels that more drug-treatment programs are needed in the region.

"Sometimes, I think legalizing marijuana might be OK," said Linda J. Hastreiter, a lifelong resident of Lovejoy and president of the Iron Island Preservation Society. "Maybe if the police didn't have to worry about marijuana anymore, they could concentrate on cases involving harder drugs, and other crime problems."

Those involved in the prevention and treatment of drug abuse believe that crackdowns are necessary but could be more effective with a communitywide approach.

For starters, the lure of making fast money needs to be eliminated, and for that to happen, the appetite for illegal drugs needs to be suppressed, according to treatment experts.

The assault on drugs must begin on the home front, whether it is in the inner city or the suburbs, experts say.

Parents and grandparents need to do a better job of protecting their teenagers from prescription medications — OxyContin, Hydrocodone and Lortab — that may be sitting in the family medicine cabinet.

"What needs to be done is: Parents, grandparents, relatives and neighbors need to lock up their prescription drugs so they are not available to their children," Gallagher said, pointing out that adults often lock up their jewelry but leave drugs within reach of curious teens.

Forums for parents

It is hard to believe that America, with so many advantages other countries lack, is the world's biggest consumer of illegal drugs, he said, and that young people in unprecedented numbers are destroying themselves and often their families.

When it comes to providing drug treatment that works, Gallagher said, the health insurance industry needs to surrender its penny-wise and pound-foolish approach.

"For many alcoholics and drug addicts, they need a minimum of two or three months in residential treatment. The standard is about 30 days, and that standard dates back 40 years," Gallagher said. "Insurers today are very reluctant to provide in-patient rehabilitation treatment. They might do it for three or five days. They are a major part of the problem."

Another way to reduce the customer base for drug dealers is to set community standards.

"One of those ways is through mandated parent forums. This is for parents with kids in middle school or high school. At the sessions, the school official talks about trends or the consequences for having or using drugs," said Andrea J. Wanat, executive director of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse.

A bit of gentle arm-twisting goes into getting parents to attend the sessions.

School districts that participate bar students from attending school dances and other social functions until the parents participate in the forums.

Neighborhoods need to set up coalitions, said Jennifer M. Zambito, coordinator of the Western New York Prevention Resource Center.

"A community coalition in this situation works together on a common goal to lower drug and alcohol use and abuse," Zambito said.

"It ties together all the different resources in the community, the businesses, law enforcement, the school and faith- based. You have everyone from that neighborhood working together."

She says her group plans to start approaching various neighborhoods in Buffalo to train individuals in how to establish coalitions, adding: "There is definitely a need."

In no-win war on narcotics, a call for some legalization : City of Buffalo : The Buffalo News (http://www.buffalonews.com/2010/04/05/1009906/debate-over-legalizing-drugs.html)

dherbeck@buffnews.com; lmichel@buffnews.com

04-06-2010, 11:42 AM
Maybe you should volunteer Obama to be the pro-drug President.

Most of his policies are pretty dopey anyway.


Jesus Christ
04-06-2010, 01:22 PM
This man is named "Christ"?

I didn't know I had any family in Tonawanda :jesuslol:

04-06-2010, 01:43 PM
Legalizing drugs such as crack cocaine and methamphetamine is not going to stop them from destroying individuals and families, said Gallagher and Erie County Sheriff's Capt. Gregory J. Savage. "I just don't think it is a good idea," Savage said. "You're sort of surrendering to the problem."

Hey, arresting people for possessing, selling, using, transporting the stuff is not stopping it from "destroying individuals and families".

In other words...NOTHING can stop people from using drugs if they want to.

If the idiot above TRULY wishes to take the best possible course of action, then he should look at rehab and education.

But even with rehab and education, some people will not or cannot stop.

Best possible thing to do in that case is to ensure they have high quality drugs, so a) they can suffer the least amount of damage to their health, b) so they can get much higher and c) so they will kill themselves quicker so as to more effectively depopulate the planet and make our natural resources last longer.

04-06-2010, 02:24 PM
Seattle's Ex-PC said the same thing [Norm Stamper]

04-06-2010, 03:22 PM
How many more people are going to be shot to death in their own homes by overzealous cops on a drug raid that uncovers a baggie of pot and a handful of pills? This whole absurd "war on drugs" had been a dismal, idiotic failure since Richard Nixon (that's right, Richard Nixon) first thought of it. Abroad, just take a good, hard look at the contradictory manner the United States has meddled in Latin American politics while skirting, then enforcing a so-called anti drug policy.

The answer, although not always the one people want to accept, is education and treatment. Of course, it is much easier to simply shoot someone while they are eating breakfast than it is to get some people the therapy they need.

04-06-2010, 07:20 PM
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More (http://www.soros.org/initiatives/drugpolicy)

04-06-2010, 10:17 PM
Maybe you should volunteer Obama to be the pro-drug President.

Most of his policies are pretty dopey anyway.


Maybe you should volunteer Bush as the pResident that most effectively empowered the Mexican drug cartels?

04-06-2010, 10:18 PM
This man is named "Christ"?

I didn't know I had any family in Tonawanda :jesuslol:

I think I might actually have a family connection him...