COMMUNITY SUPPORT is essential to the type of raids that District police have been staging in the city's drug centers in the past few days. For the most part there appears to be solid backing for the action. But one troubling argument is heard again and again: that the police would not have begun their crusade against the junkies and hustlers who eat away at city neighborhoods if it weren't for the middle-class blacks and whites who are now moving into those areas. As proof, adherents of this line of argument point to the years in which drug selling thrived at many of the same corners while residents and even passersby who stopped at traffic lights wondered how a crowd of people obviously engaged in drug deals could continue to do business without some police action.
An offshoot of this argument is that the city's drive against addicts and drug dealers is a misplaced effort because if jobs and good schools were available, the people involved would not be on the corner shooting drugs. These arguments interpret the police drive against the addicts as the latest action in a plan to displace poor people and renovate the city's downtown neighborhoods for the well-to-do.
The fault with this argument lies in its resolution: would anyone suggest that the police return to ignoring the masses of addicts and hustlers, allowing them to foster crime and otherwise help destroy neighborhood life for the poor and the newcomers to the area? To portray the addicts as victims of poor education and unemployment who had nothing but drugs to turn to is dangerous because it paralyzes all real community efforts to confront the drug problem directly. Poor schools and unemployment exist for many more people than the ones nodding out on heroin or selling it on the street corner. And it is not only disadvantaged people from the inner city who deal in heroin.
The romantic vision of heroin addicts as little people crushed by a large and mean society ignores the fact that there are many more people with the same backgrounds trying to lead normal lives. The addicts tear away at what those good people are trying to make of their neighborhood. Police Chief Maurice Turner and his policemen should be encouraged in their battle with the drug dealers and addicts. They are doing the right thing for those areas and for the city. If the addicts eventually move and establish new outposts, the police should follow. As the police continue their efforts it is important that they outlast the hustlers and junkies and that community support not fall victim to phony arguments.