No One Would Have Cared. Author: RaineDate:04/30/2015 13:08:39
'Hiring more cops to cure crime is like hiring more ambulances to cure cancer'
Two years ago, Bob and I took a trip to the city of Philadelphia. It was a lovely time. When we left for home, we wanted to go see the famous Boat House Row. We took a few turns and found ourselves in an alternate universe. I would later learn that we had driven thru what is known as the Philadelphia Badlands.
I lived in Manhattan in the 1980's, I had been to Brooklyn and the Bronx and had seen "The Ghetto" — I had never seen anything like what I saw that afternoon in North Philadelphia. House after house that looked like this:
I felt like we were driving through hell.
We were. We drove through what is generally known as an open air drug market. Law enforcement turns its eye to it. We drove across the 'tracks'
Philadelphia’s police force is inarguably overwhelmed by the scope of the city’s addiction problems. “The Tracks,” a mile-long wooded stretch of shipping railway cutting across the Badlands, is a section of Philadelphia long ago ceded by law enforcement to drug users. Addicts can be found in the woods along the Tracks openly cooking and shooting drugs in broad daylight, a daily occurrence that indicates this is territory clearly forsaken by the law.
Tony Rogers, a recovered heroin addict and reformed career criminal who warmly calls the motley crowds on Kensington Avenue “my old tribe,” says, “In 20 years of using back here, I never once saw a cop come on the Tracks unless they chased somebody in here.”
This is an area of a major city that everyone has just given up on. it is literally libertarianism on drugs. It was a real life version of the Wire's episode titled New Hamsterdamn. The problem though, the wire looked beautiful compared to what we saw.
Two years later and I can not shake the soul crushing feeling I got when we entered that bizarre and tragic neighborhood. Watching what happened in Baltimore brought that feeling back stronger than ever. I asked myself, what if Freddie Gray lived in the Badlands and not West Baltimore?
I would say to you, nothing. There would be no riot. There would be no protest. There would be no mother caught on film smacking her son around and dragging him home. The dead body would be taken away and people would shoot up to further numb the pain on their front stoop, or in one of the vacant crumbling former homes that were now inhabited with the forgotten souls of the city. No one cares about what happens in this area of North Philly.
That neighborhood that we drove through was void of any hope, redemption or change. They have given up, the city has given up and no one cares. These are the people that society throws away.
I do not condone violence, but I seek to understand the causes of it. If nothing else, I am thankful that the people of Baltimore care enough to be angry.
This is just not a policing problem, or just a drug problem. It is a cancer in our society where we deem some people more worthy of a life of dignity than others.
This is from 1995:
and this is from the summer we stumbled across this area.
I have no illusions that the area we drove through is isolated to one city. No one would have rioted if Freddie Gray was in the badlands.