Tuesday, October 31, 2006
all the way around the world, a kilo is a measure:
On the subject of slinging, Yglesias writes:
Street level dealers, by contrast, are a bona fide nuisance. You wouldn't want those dudes slinging on the corner where you live or right outside the shop where you buy stuff.
OK, sort of. It so happens that I've lived in two places where street-level dealing was totally open-air, Wire-style: On Plum Street in New Brunswick, NJ, in 1998-9; and 11th Street NW between Columbia and Harvard in late 2002. Both, at the time, were relatively high violent-crime areas. A lot of cocaine moved on Plum Street, which once resulted in a very strange encounter during my old band Yakub's Saturday basement practice, whereby an addled 40-something calling himself Native Born decided he was going to join the group. On 11th Street in '02, it could be genuinely frightening: this was during the height of the MS-13-inspired Salvadoran gang wars in Columbia Heights, and you could mississippi-count how long it took between hearing shots fired and hearing police sirens.

On both blocks, however, not a hair on my head was touched. That's for a very simple reason, one The Wire explains time and again: violence on drug corners is extremely bad for business. No one can sell anything when two crews are beefing. You have to bring in extra muscle, which is expensive. And the extra police presence makes the whole thing a genuine nuisence. The last thing especially any crew wants is to piss off a civilian resident more than absolutely necessary, since those are the people who, pushed too far, will raise hell at neighborhood, precinct and even city council meetings -- which is, again, bad for business. Letting civilians walk on by without harassment, by contrast, is a sound business plan.

I'm sure if I were to have polled my neighbors on both blocks, everyone would have prefered the drug trade move to a Hamsterdam-like area. And I've never lived in a hellhole like East Baltimore. Matt is right that it's a nuisance to see four guys sitting on a milk crate 50 feet from your house with closed palms looking for clientele. But what's a nuisance is not always what's dangerous. In Columbia Heights in '02, it was the territory where no dealers worked that got shot up -- no-man's-land is typically more dangerous, appearances aside. Meanwhile, the beefs get decided at higher levels, meaning that it's sounder police work to go after the higher-ups, even if you know that the drug market will replace its old vendors in a flash. Them's the wages of criminalizing drugs: true amelioration defies policing solutions, but as long as drugs are illegal, it makes more sense to lock up the bigger players than the corner kids.
--Spencer Ackerman
The other explanation for Plum Street's safety was that it remained thoroughly under control of La Mugre. Monopoly in the drug trade is much better compatible with public order than competition.

As for Yakub -- when are we getting the band back together? It's time to get paid.
Blogger TheWaldganger | 10:13 AM

La Mugre never had a monopoly -- remember La Famiglia, motherfucker?

I'm waiting on Ben Manners for the Yakub reunion.
Blogger spencerackerman | 11:03 AM

Ben could be found. And Elliot would give us a nice party.

But now I have to return to constructing my George Allen pinata.
Blogger TheWaldganger | 12:34 PM

Yeah, I have to weigh in against open-air drug marts. I've lived in plenty of "bad" neighborhoods. I never got fucked with, but that's because I was a) lucky and b) tall and c) never lived that close to the really bad corners. In those drug-o-rama areas of Oakland and Berkeley, my roomates got to witness enough, including a guy shot in the ass (it's the favored nonlethal shooting, since it's such a humiliating wound).

Nobody likes the War On Drugs, but open-air drug markets suck a lot, especially for people who aren't just children of privilege passing through like I was and have to live there.
Blogger Wcw | 1:01 PM

I've reached out to Manners. Cannon is another story.
Blogger spencerackerman | 1:02 PM

WCW, it's also favored because it's clearly not attempted murder.
Blogger spencerackerman | 1:06 PM

And what's Ivan up to, anyway?
Blogger spencerackerman | 1:34 PM

Interesting take. I have lived in the gay ghetto in Houston know as Montrose. I used to tend bar at a local club and walk home with upwards of $200 in my sock, And $50 in my pocket just in case.

Virtually every block had a hustler or two waiting for a john, a fact that made the emerging yuppie pioneers less than happy. I, on the other hand, valued those young men. I took the time to learn their names and give’ em a butt (so to speak). They were a crude form of a neighborhood watch. Once when an aggressive “foreigner” approached me one of the boys came up quickly and fended the stranger off most effectively.

They are so sad. Many want out, but they just don’t know the way.
Blogger Keith | 1:46 PM

Ivan is, apparently, a Williamsburg celebrity -- league leader in both rock and roll and facial hair categories. I can't imagine Cannon would refuse to do it. How about a Yakub Christmas Pageant?
Blogger TheWaldganger | 3:48 PM

Cannon might be booked up, is all. Plus you know how he is about nostalgia. You got me thinking about him today, and apparently on jessecannon's myspace page he implies that Alexander P put out our demo as a CD. But as they say, things happen on the streets. Proof is hard to come by.
Blogger spencerackerman | 4:43 PM

I don't know if any of the kids with Glocks I knew worried about what charge they might take. My impression was calculations involved money and personal honor versus risk of victim adherent revenge.

I grant, my anecdote base is dated. Do the kids still love their Glocks? Do they worry more about how The Man might indict than about someone's cousin with his own Glock?

Yeah, hustlers. I have been approached while unshaven and walking a bicycle with a flat tire. You have to admire their pluck.
Blogger Wcw | 6:49 PM

I've been receiving and returning voicemail from Debbie Lee and talk to Jesse every few months. We are going to the Texa$ I$ The Rea$on reunion show before Thanksgiving ("Thank$giving!"). Jesse recently spent a night hanging out with Elliot. He also recently went to see Ivan's band.

..and then there's this:

Blogger Ben | 10:04 AM

Gentle Ben! E-mail me, motherfucker. I'll be in Iraq for Thanksgiving -- what, you won't? -- but say hi to Cannon and Debbie Ree for me.
Blogger spencerackerman | 3:59 PM

Hi, i was looking over your blog and didn't
quite find what I was looking for. I'm looking for
different ways to earn money... I did find this though...
a place where you can make some nice extra cash secret shopping.
I made over $900 last month having fun!
make extra money
Blogger Askinstoo | 5:29 PM