Booked my plane tickets for OzBurn last night - they ended up coming in about $90 cheaper than I expected to pay, but I was still surprised by the breakdown of costs - the tickets themselves were $347 or something, then there was the $50 insurance, and then $149 worth of various service and airport charges (with GST added on top). I don't remember ever running into this 'various service charges' thing before, and it surprised me.
But still, exciting! Now to go and get passport photos. I'm quite glad my passport's up for renewal - in my current photo I look like a heroin-addicted terrorist, so the next one's gotta be better, right? Right? Does ANYONE have a flattering passport photo? Anywhere?
12 people have been busted for drugs. So what, no big deal, etc etc blah blah.
So I was somewhat surprised to discover that the place was busted in a dawn raid by 15 armed offenders with dogs.
"One neighbour said that when she approached the house, one of the occupants was lying face-down in the garden with a policeman holding a firearm to his head. She said it was horrid that drugs activity was suspected in the area. "It's not the first time this has happened - I have to walk my kids to kindy, past these houses. We don't want to have to leave here, we simply can't afford it." ... Despite being involved in a neighbourhood watch group, she said the stormed house was quiet and had never aroused her suspicion."
Yes folks, we actually have "Won't anybody think of the children?" Yet again. But that isn't the thing that bothers me here, it's this:
House is quiet and never arouses suspicion - which implies the occupants have been reasonably good neighbours.
Cops turn up with guns and dogs and wake everyone up at dawn with noise, people get up to see what's happening and they see their neighbour lying on the lawn with a gun to his head.
Turns out there is nothing in the house and no charges are laid.
Woman is now more concerned about walking her kids to kindy past the quiet neighbours' house than she is about the violence by the cops.
The difference between this woman's view of those people before this and after is not based on their behaviour or status as neighbours, it's based on judgement of their character because they have been suspected of association with drugs.
And in the picture, the guy having the gun held on him is lying face down on the lawn with his wrists strapped behind his back, and the cop's standing there looking through his sights at this helpless person, with another officer looking on. I have to wonder why this was necessary, and why the thing that the woman is horrified about is that 'drugs activity was suspected in the area' instead of 'hey there's a dude on that lawn threatening to kill that other dude.'
I know that there was a case recently where the police went to bust a house and it turned into a standoff between them and an armed suspect, and a police officer was killed. I understand the desire amongst police to feel safe when carrying out search warrants. But does it really take holding a gun on someone who's bound and lying face-down for them to feel safe?
I understand that when police enter those situations they don't know what they might find there - and it seems that they are now treating every warrant as if it could turn into a standoff with a crazed gunman. They take firearms and they take dogs and they take along enough backup to deal with any situation that might arise. And that's fair enough. However, once the situation has been secured and it's become clear that there is no crazed gunman, the suspects have been removed and restrained, is there really any call for pointing guns at them?
What does that achieve, except perhaps to instil into the minds of people like the woman quoted that her quiet neighbours are the sort of people that need guns held on them even when they're helpless? Yes folks, people who are suspected of dealing drugs (I think probably P given that the police feared hazardous substances) are The Big Bad, even if they've never actually done anything to indicate they are anything other than normal, quiet citizens.
This woman had no idea there was (alleged) drug activity going on in that house. If the cops had not turned up she would have continued to have no idea. And yet now it's not safe for her kids? Was it safe before? Is the only difference her knowledge that these people might have been selling drugs?
I used to live up the road from a gang HQ. It was a good place to live. Gang members might be a lot of things, but stupid is not one of them and they don't shit in their own nest. The house was quiet and well kept, and its presence kept a lot of other criminal elements out of the street. You could do a lot worse than living next door to drug dealers.
There are lots of reasons why my attitude is considered wrong - not least of which is that drug dealers are criminals, the police were only doing their job, the crime associated with drug dealing is not something your average citizen wants to deal with, drug dealers profit off other people's suffering and are therefore bad people, drug users are losers and we shouldn't tolerate them in our safe neighbourhoods.. I could take the moral high ground and argue why it should be ok to hold guns to these people's heads, jail them and exclude them from society. I could probably reassure the neighbour lady that the police are taking care of the situation, that drug dealers are being stamped out and that the tough-on-crime stance evidenced by that bust and the accompanying photographs are making her neighbourhood safe again. Her kids will grow up walking to kindy past only quiet houses that contain nice people, instead of quiet houses that contain low-life scum.
Except I'd be lying. Remove the criminal aspect of selling drugs (just imagine for a second), and what you have is a market with a demand. And where there's demand there will be a supplier. When one supplier goes out of business, another steps in to take their place. One house gets busted, another opens somewhere else. Drug use is increasing, not decreasing, under this tough-on-crime supply-side policy. Mrs Neighbour Lady is getting less safe, not more safe, as the stakes are driven higher and people in this market have more to gain and lose through their activities. And adding guns to the mix is not helping. Now the drug dealers out there know that busts come with guns and threats and lying on the lawn helpless, stood over by two people who could kill you. And a percentage of those people will choose to arm themselves instead of seeing that as an acceptable risk of the business.
I wonder, if I were being honest with Mrs Neighbour Lady, if I could talk about where that might end without freaking her right out. And I wonder if, weighing up what she knew before vs what she knows now, she might compare the quiet neighbours that had never done anything to arouse her suspicion with the violent scene she woke up to this morning, and wonder what felt safer.
Note here: I've been trying to examine how I might feel if my neighbour got busted for making child pornography, and whether that would change my attitude. Thoughts so far include:
I still wouldn't think it was ok to hold a gun on someone who's bound and helpless.
I would probably have one of those 'nobody suspected OMG' moments.
I don't think it would make me consider my neighbourhood suddenly unsafe - it could happen anywhere and it's the same with drugs.
Child pornography is also a market with a similar supply and demand equation. I have no idea if it's increasing despite policing - perhaps someone who's studied it can tell me - but effectiveness of policing in reducing the activity does colour my view of whether what the police do is ok.
Child pornography is an activity with a clear victim who is unable to give informed consent to participate in the activity. Thus, I believe the making of child pornography is a 'worse' thing than dealing drugs.
I am the parent of a teenager. The risk of having my son coerced into child pornography vs coerced into doing drugs (which I think is the fear of Neighbour Lady wrt her children and these people) - which do I find scarier? I guess the line above sums that up for me. I have heard of P dealers attempting to increase their client base by persuading young people to try it with free samples, Mickey Finns and the like. I have no idea if these stories are true, it's certainly never happened to me or anyone I know, but I can't discount it. If I didn't know as much as I do about drug use and misuse, I'd probably be equally scared by either scenario.
But the scariest thing of all for me is that if the cops use guns, the crims will too, and it's likely to go from the occasional-anomaly situation we have now with crazed gunmen in standoffs, to a regular thing. And that's when kids and neighbours get shot.
Food for thought.
But you know, they've been seen to be doing something about it, and I guess that's all that counts, right?