Thursday, March 3, 2011

When the drug trade comes to town

Anyone tuned in to the news in recent years has probably noticed that rural America appears to be under siege by drug traffickers and drug-related crime. We are all familiar with the fact that our country’s war on drugs takes place in the meth labs of abandoned rural buildings just as much as it does in the back alleys of our major metropolitan cities.

Many Americans blame the increase in drug use and drug violence in rural areas on lack of access to treatment programs, reluctance of addicts to seek treatment and, in many cases, the “boredom” associated with spatial isolation and lack of economic and other resources.

A recent article in The Boston Globe posits that there is nothing necessarily unique about rural people that “breeds” drug abuse and violence, but rather that drug dealers are more frequently using rural towns as meeting places for drug transactions, simply because they are less likely to get caught.

The article describes the recent fatal shooting of a 21-year-old drug dealer in the small town of Ashby, Massachusetts, population 3,059. A local state trooper who had been monitoring the area for drug activity fired the fatal shot when the young man refused to stop his vehicle and began driving toward the officer. Community members were understandably shocked by what they considered to be a rare happening in their “sleepy, quiet town.”

However, residents of Ashby did admit that there were many signs that the drug trade had come to town even before the shooting. From the unfamiliar vans with tinted windows that drove through on occasion, to the hypodermic needles often strewn along nearby walking trails, it was clear to residents that drug addiction was nothing new.

Although the fact that drug dealers are making use of conveniently isolated rural locations for their transactions does increase exposure and access to the drug trade for rural residents, it cannot be the sole factor in rural America's growing difficulties with drug addiction and related crime. It is likely that the encroachment of urban drug traffickers on rural locales combined with other factors such as high unemployment, poverty, and lack of drug education and prevention programming is a more complete explanation.

The solution to the drug problem must be more than just enforcing anti-drug laws in rural areas. A more holistic approach would be to increase funding for drug treatment and prevention centers, as well as economic opportunities in general. More educated and financially stable communities could create viable alternatives to joining the drug trade for rural residents, and encourage drug dealers to do their business elsewhere.


N.P. said...

I guess it is rather self-evident that rural areas allow the drug trade to infiltrate because it is less likely for those individuals to be caught. Part of the reason why I feel like the residents of Ashby were shocked by the fact that it occurred in their town is denial - perhaps this is partially related to the sense of nostalgia we have in our rural small towns or perhaps it is related to a lack of awareness of others in the town due to spatiality. In either case, those factors discussed in this post: poverty, easier access to drugs, lack of education, and a lack of resources all contribute to the increase in drug use.

lauren said...

I agree with N.P that, taking into account the description of their community, there is a sense of denial in Ashby when dealing with the growing drug presence. I also think that a failure to report such suspicious activity goes against our stereotypes of rural communities -- specifically that everybody talks and looks out for one another. Either way, yes, there are likely many contributing factors leading to the rise in the drug trade in rural areas.

vlshaw said...

I think that sometimes rural areas are complicit about what they percieve as isolated drug use, and drug sales. Every town has some usual suspects who everyone knows are into drugs. I believe that the non-drug users beleive that as long as they are not directly ompacted, that it is not really thier concearn. Oftentimes the reason something like this killing goes down is people from urban areas travel to the rural areas to buy the drugs from the source at a cheaper price. It's not the deal that is easier, its the production. The deal is what follows.

eyelift said...

Thanks for alert me about it. That is true that drug-abused people are really responsible for increase crimes in American society.

mole removal said...

There are many indications that the drug trade has come, even if the town before the shooting. From the strange vans with windows, drive through the occasion, often scattered along the walking trails near the subcutaneous needle, it is clear residents, drug abuse is nothing new.