25 November 2005

1,000 Feet as a Crow Flies

The decision referenced by Orin doesn't bother me so much. The measurement in a straight line from the school to the location of a drug dealer makes sense. You are trying to create a dealer-free zone because kids congregate on or near campus and it's a natural place to prey upon them.

When I was in Junior High School (7-9th grade) there was a road that was barricaded off behind both the Junior High and the High School; it went about 100 feet further to the High School parking lot and I'm sure it was blocked off because the local suburbanites complained). It was the quickest way for those of us who walked to get to school and the area around that gate got clogged every morning with kids who hung out there - mostly the kids who viewed themselves as "cool" (though many of us just thought of them as the "dopers") and there was usually a funny odor in the air as I walked through them (I just wanted to get to school). These guys would pull up in a car out on the street and deal pretty brazenly. Then, in the 8th grade I was sitting in my homeroom about 5 minutes before school started and a kid, whom I remember as a big time doper, came dashing in the door. The police had raided the area, coming out of houses at the end of the street and arresting a bunch of kids and catching the guys who were dealing from their car. Doper swore that cops had even come down out of this huge tree which was out there. After that nobody hung out at the end of the street anymore and, I think the psychic shock caused the class years around mine to have less drug penetration then normal (beer & whiskey, on the other hand . . .).

Anyway, the dealers' car was parked on the street. As you walked to the High School, I'm pretty sure it was over 1,000 feet from the buildings, even as a crow flies. However, there was one row of houses between where they parked and the Junior High School. Walking around these houses probably put them over 1,000 feet from the school. As the crow flies, I doubt it was 500 feet. As I think back on it, there is no doubt in my mind that they were preying on the kids as they walked in to school. I've got no problems with the 1,000 foot safety zone.

Next time in the Strange Things in Ken's Life Theatre: Someday I'll have to tell ya'll about the day I was approached and asked to deal.


K. Scott said...

In the case you note, they specifically arrested people dealing to kids. But what if a city that had the 'zones', but among all the arrests withint the zone (and its about 75% of the city) there were arrested none who were cited as dealing to kids? Wouldn't one suspicion the zone had demonstrated no meeting of its purpose, but a GREAT showing of enhanced sentences for urban street dealers (predominantly African American)?

The 'zones' are failures in reality.

Ken Lammers said...

75% of a city is within 1,000 feet of a school? Must be some sort of Utopia.

In general, the anti-drug programs in place have been failures. There's never a decrease in supply; at least my clients never have trouble getting anything they want. There has been a massive increase in the legal system (courts, attorneys, law enforcement) which all revolves around drug activity. Our civil rights have been trashed - especially the 4th Amendment - because dealers and users shouldn't "get away with it" (although no one is going to say that out loud).

This school zone is one of the few policies which makes sense. Area denial in a highly vulnerable target area makes sense. Do I doubt that the police use this policy in ways that your basic non-innercity legislator didn't foresee (and couldn't care less about)? Not in the least. However, experience also teaches me that clients catch on to this sort of thing quickly. The county where I practice runs right into the South Side of Richmond. The South Side has a very high level of violence and crime. My county gets some spillover, but not much. Why? Because they know where the border is and they know things the Richmond cops wouldn't touch will get you felony time in "Arrestafield." I strongly suspect that the same thing will happen elsewhere. If word gets out that anybody within 2 blocks of a school gets more time the business locale is going to shift. Is it a solution? Nope, but as far as half-steps go it's one of the better I've seen.

Anonymous said...

75% of a city is within 1,000 feet of a school? Must be some sort of Utopia.

I've seen maps of SF and NYC with the radii overlaid. I can't claim to know for a fact that it is 75%, but I would bet that it is > 50 in both cases.

Why? Because they know where the border is and they know things the Richmond cops wouldn't touch will get you felony time in "Arrestafield."

I suggested over at Volokh that the next logical thing to do is a Google Maps hack that maps the ideal dealing locales.

Anonymous said...

Here, the law is "w/in 1/2 mile of a school or park and, believe you me (because I've seen it on a map in trial) the entire town is w/in a 1/2 mile. That's a mandatory minimum of 10 years here. And I have yet to see one where they were dealing to any of the kids. (My trial was for a guy in his own home, approached by a CI).

It's just a way to hammer poor schmucks here.