Last week, The Boston Globe shared the story of a Salem couple who expressed frustration about what they perceived as the local police department's failure to stop drug sales and abuse in their neighborhood. In response to the article, the director of our Technology for Liberty program Kade Crockford wrote a letter to the editor.
People who use drugs are part of our communities. Throwing more police or more prisons at substance abuse won’t help users or neighborhoods, as evidenced by decades of failed drug war policy. No one wants to see drug sales in their building. But instead of doubling down on failed policy, we should follow the successful Portuguese model: decriminalize drug use, provide people with safer drugs and injection sites, and shift funding from police and prisons to health care and treatment.
There's a growing recognition among public officials that substance abuse is a health problem that won’t be solved by police or prisons. “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem” is almost a cliche at this point, years into our regional opioid crisis. You wouldn’t know it from reading “Opioid crisis hits too close to home for Salem couple” (Page A1, May 25). In detailing the fears of its protagonists — condo owners in Salem — the article makes it sound like the only reasonable approach is to pay more police to put more people in cages.
As our public officials say, drug abuse is a public health issue. We must stop looking to the police to address it.