The Inner City Drug Problem

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Aside from being among the most undesirable of places that a person could live, the inner cities of the United States are said to be a horrible gangland full of murder, prostitution, and drugs. While this description is overblown in some cases, the inner city definitely resembles the definition given. Inner cities across the country are havens for gangs and the activities that keep them financially viable: prostitution, robbery, and drugs. The focus of this paper will deal with the problem of drugs in the inner city. Rejecting a broad definition of “drugs,” that includes alcohol, cigarettes, and legal prescription drugs, I will be concentrating on the illicit “street drugs” that proliferate in the inner cities of the United States. In particular, this paper will deal with the inner city drug problem in the Chicago area.

According to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration,

“Chicago is the major transportation hub and distribution center for illegal drugs throughout the Midwest, due to its geographic location and multi-faceted transportation infrastructure. Commercial trucks, passenger vehicles, package delivery services, air packages or couriers, and railways are the most common means traffickers use to transport drugs into Chicago. The majority of the investigations conducted by the Division target one of the following drug trafficking groups: Mexico-based poly-drug organizations, Colombian cocaine and heroin trafficking organizations, and Nigerian/West African groups trafficking in Southeast and Southwest Asian heroin. Chicago-based street gangs such as the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, and Latin Kings control the distribution and retail sale of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana. Most law enforcement agencies in Illinois cite the violent crime associated with gang-related drug trafficking as the most serious criminal threat to the state. Violent crime associated with street gangs, while declining in some major urban areas, is increasing in suburban and rural areas as these gangs expand their drug markets.” (USDEA website)

In the inner city the drug of choice has proven to be cocaine, a powerfully addictive stimulant drug, and particularly “crack” cocaine, the cheapest to purchase and most profitable to sell form. The crack form of cocaine comes in a rock crystal that can be heated and its vapors smoked. The term “crack” refers to the crackling sound heard when it is heated. In 2002 alone, the Chicago Police Department seized more than 6,000 kilograms of cocaine.

Coming in at a close second for the drug of choice is heroin. Pure heroin is a white powder with a bitter taste. Most heroin varies in color from white to dark brown. Heroin use is at alarming levels in Chicago, and for the fifth consecutive year, there were more estimated heroin-related emergency department mentions in Chicago during 2002 than in any other U.S. city.

While it is true that illicit drug use is seen in the inner cities as well as in suburban areas, the most destructive activities associated with the illicit use of drugs are seen in the inner city. Families are shattered because of drug trafficking, abuse, and even from living in a drug saturated neighborhood. Most inner city neighborhoods with high unemployment levels can be conducive to an environment where drug dealing becomes the only way of earning an income. In this type of environment, gangs “set up shop” on the streets and fight with rival gangs to keep their territory (and livelihood).

In these metropolitan areas the drug trade can generate into the billions of dollars per year. The gangs get linked up with South American drug cartels and Mafia elements as their sources for drugs. The hierarchy in the gangs is elaborate, even military-like, and gang leaders control who can sell drugs in their neighborhoods. When the street level gang members get their supply of drugs, the product is “cut” with other substances to make it go...
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