Do Drug Sweeps Merely Displace Dealers?


A weekend police sweep netting dozens of suspected drug dealers was welcome news to residents and business owners whose Belltown neighborhood in Seattle has been home to a sidewalk crack market, says Seattle As prosecutors press charges against 32 people, the city waits to see whether the outdoor drug trade will return — and, ultimately, where. Nearly two dozen Belltown residents hit the streets yesterday in neon-yellow vests, patrolling the neighborhood as they have several times since earlier this year.

Neighbors said they’d seen decreased drug dealing since the weekend bust, but didn’t think the overall problem was solved. Harry Levine, a Spokane native and sociology professor at City University of New York’s Queens College, was skeptical that actions like that undertaken by Seattle police Saturday will leave a lasting impact on street drug sales in the city. Levine, who has written extensively on crack use, said dealers will remain displaced as long as police remain in the area. The customers will follow them to the block or corner where the drug trade reconstitutes itself. “That’s true for prostitution, it’s true for teens hanging out at night. It’s the same basic principle,” Levine said. “Ultimately, the customers who went there will still be looking for what they went there for.”

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