A Syracuse, N.Y., council committee today will begin examining local alternatives to the war on drugs, reports the Syracuse Post-Standard. Stephanie Miner, chairwoman of the council’s finance committee, will host four national experts on drug policy in hearings today and Oct. 28. The hearings stem from a critical city auditor’s report on the money spent by Syracuse police to enforce minor drug crimes, and by increasing concern by city residents that a new approach is needed, Miner said. “It’s become increasingly apparent to a lot of different people that the war on drugs is not working,” she said. “This is something that’s going on across the country, and we want to learn how other communities are dealing with it, and if there’s a way to spend money more efficiently.”
This is a rare case of a city government’s looking critically at its approach and investigate alternatives, said Nicholas Eyle of ReconsiDer, an organization dedicated to reforming drug laws. “If the city would make it clear that we wanted our revenues to be allocated with a different approach, I believe we could certainly have an impact,” said former city auditor Minch Lewis. “It’s a question of whether we spend those resources to track down drug users or to focus on quality of life issues.” Last December, Lewis criticized the Police Department’s emphasis on enforcing drug crimes, noting that 6,300 of its 28,800 arrests in 2002 were related to drugs. That focus, he argued, had not succeeded in reducing street crime.