So the hubs and I have decided to make another run through HBO’s The Wire because it’s one of our all-time favorite shows. As we watched the first season again for the umpteenth time, I started to wonder whether a Hamsterdam would really work here in America.
For those of you who don’t know, Hamsterdam was modeled after the Dutch city, Amsterdam, which has extremely liberal drug laws. The “H” only came along after a dealer misheard an officer in the show, but that’s neither here nor there.
The idea behind Hamsterdam was the de facto legalization of dealing drugs, as well as prostitution, within a few nearly abandoned blocks of the city.
As with all things, there are both positive and negative effects to “legalizing” certain crimes in a small area. Let’s discuss them.
We’ll start with the pros of such legalization:
Reduced Street Crime Around the Rest of the City
If the vast majority of drug use, dealing, and prostitution was done in a “quarantined” area, the amount of crime in the other areas of the city would decrease. As a result, the high traffic areas of a particular city for tourists would ideally remain untouched and crime-free. This, obviously, looks good for the city, as well as for its political leaders.
Increased Amounts of Health and Social Services
If the numbers of drug users and prostitutes were concentrated in one small area of the city, the clinics and other services for medical issues, caused as a result of drug use or sex, could be increased to those specific areas in need. The city could employ a few mobile medical units to treat the people in that one area weekly, or even a few times per month. The concentration of people participating in such crimes in one small area would likely ensure that more people in need of these services would be reached.
Decreased Numbers of Innocent Victims
If the majority of would-be “criminals” took advantage of Hamsterdam, the number of random, innocent people being victimized by these users and dealers would likely decrease exponentially. Often, crimes perpetuated by the desire for drug money and sex are crimes of opportunity. If that opportunity was removed, the criminals would turn to other means to obtain their drugs and sex. Again, if those things such as prostitution and dealing were legalized in a concentrated area, any resulting crime would also be contained in this area.
Savings in Budget Costs
The de defacto legalization of drugs and prostitution in a small area like Hamsterdam would allow law enforcement agencies to focus their time and money on other crimes being commited throughout the city, rather than on policing and prosecuting such crimes.
Now for the cons of such legalization:
Increased Tax Payer Costs
While it would be beneficial to have the increased medical services in a concentrated area like Hamsterdam, the issue then arises as to who would pay for this medical care. Obviously, the crack heads and the crack whores won’t be able to, which leaves taxpayers with the financial burden. I don’t know about you, but I can barely pay my own bills, much less help Peter Perv pay to get his rocks off.
No Increase in City Income
Unlike legalizing and regulating something like marijuana statewide, allowing the de facto legalization of drugs and prostitution in a small area, such as Hamsterdam, the city would be unable to collect any revenue from taxing these things. While it would save some revenue, it wouldn’t create any new revenue for the city.
Wars Over Turf
Creating an area like Hamsterdam where “everything goes” creates a nightmare for dealers. Poor things. How are they supposed to make their money when their southside competition is dealing right beside them? This will cause a bigger nightmare for city officials than just drugs and sex.
One of those larger nightmares for the city would be murders, no doubt. When Carl Crackhead runs out of crack or when those eastside thugs intrude on the westsiders turf, there’s sure to be bigger problems than containing the drug trade to within a few blocks. While it may be fairly easy to keep the drugs and hoes under wraps from the rest of the state, I imagine doing so for the increased homicides will be a little more difficult.
So what have we learned here, folks? While the idea of a local Hamsterdam appears brilliant from a distance, it’s a big old mess up close. And I’m sure as hell not using my hard-earned money to help Suzie Slut get treated for the clap.
What do you think? Is de facto legalization of certain crimes in a specified, cordoned-off area a good idea?