Privatization

Altoona's Privately Funded Drug War

One form of privatization we can do without

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The Pittburgh Post-Gazette describes the "unique drug enforcement ladder" of Blair County, Pennsylvania:

Private DRUG war, that is.
MCA

At the top are the county's leading businessmen. In 2007, they created a nonprofit organization called Operation Our Town, which annually steers six-figure sums to the district attorney's office to help police and cover the salary of a drug prosecutor….

Created to combat out-of-town dealers following gunfights in Altoona in 2006, Operation Our Town has raised more than $2 million in private money over eight years for drug prevention, education and law enforcement.

Typically more than half of the money, including $120,000 last year, flows to the office of Blair County District Attorney Richard Consiglio.

"There's never enough money to go around in prosecuting and fighting the narcotics injection into the area," Mr. Consiglio said. He uses the grants to help police agencies to buy equipment and cover overtime, and, most of all, to pay his drug prosecutor.

Mr. Consiglio said he hired assistant district attorney Peter Weeks, who was then a new lawyer, to handle cases generated through Operation Our Town. Mr. Weeks' $52,126 salary, plus benefits and support staff, is covered by the private funds, he said.

A group of local businessmen hired the stage manager.
Operation Our Town

The newspaper compares this arrangement to the pre-20th-century system in which the victims of crimes hired prosecutors rather than relying on the state. The Blair County setup is rather different, though, since the crimes in question are victimless.

The Post-Gazette suggests that the semi-private system encourages "prosecutors to bring marginal cases to satisfy financial backers," and it describes some possible examples of that happening. This may well be true, but similar incentives are plentiful in the publicly funded drug war as well. The best alternative for Altoona isn't to move to a more tax-based system; it's to dump the drug war altogether.

Bonus links: This isn't the only sort of "privatization" that should raise libertarian hackles. To read about a privatized portion of a war, go here; to read about a privatized crackdown on junk cars and porn shops, go here.

NEXT: 'Uncivil obedience'

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  1. I’m not in favor of the drug war, but if private citizens want to give extra money to the government, who am I to say they shouldn’t?

    1. if private citizens want to give extra money to the government,

      A bunch of local bigshots writing checks to cops and prosecutors.

      What could possibly go wrong?

      1. This sounds like the liberal argument against Citizens United.

        Can private citizens spend their money how they see fit or not?

        1. Different issues. I personally don’t see how private individuals giving money to the police to “better” enforce specific laws implicates the First Amendment in any way.

          The government is bought and paid for by monied interests to go after those who aren’t directly subsidizing these specific police activities. It’s no longer even a facade of government but a privatized gang that has the power of the “state” to do things on behalf of a specific set of people.

          1. Private organizations give money to police all the time. Sometimes for police related charities, but often for actual enforcement. As an example, the Mall of America not only has city police constantly there, they have a small station and jail on site.

            1. Can private citizens spend their money how they see fit or not?

              If you invest your freely earned money, voluntarily, in a child sex trafficking network, is it a morally compliant decision because it was voluntarily funded?

              Sure you can invest it how you see fit, unless that spending is infringing on the rights of others, which the state and it’s drug war do beyond any shadow of a doubt.

        2. But I agree the root of the problem is the laws themselves. Such blatant corruption of the police process, though, shouldn’t be tolerated in the meantime…

    2. I’m not in favor of the drug war, but if private citizens want to give extra money to the government, who am I to say they shouldn’t?

      I’m not in favor of extortion, but if private citizens want to give extra money to a mobster, who are the victims of the mobster to tell me I shouldn’t?

  2. But you can still get meth in Altoona? Right?

    1. Nope. They’ve completely eliminated drugs in the city. All hail the drug war!

  3. Operation Our Town has raised more than $2 million in private money over eight years for drug prevention, education and law enforcement.

    They are past due for a serious performance review. Especially on the “educational” part.

  4. if private citizens want to give extra money to the government, who am I to say they shouldn’t?

    Yeah. Developers and contractors could put up money for code enforcement agents. No harm could come from that, right?

    1. The problem isn’t the code enforcement agents. The problem is the codes themselves. I certainly agree that the government shouldn’t be in the business of protecting incumbents, but let’s be honest – it already happens. Rather than worrying how private citizens spend their money, we should focus on the ability of the state to wield the power those citizens are trying to control.

      1. I agree BC. The laws need to go, not more restrictions on how people can spend money.

  5. my buddy’s mother makes $72 /hr on the internet . She has been without work for 5 months but last month her payment was $12076 just working on the internet for a few hours. read more…………
    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  6. Hey! When taxes go down, the police have to get funding from somewhere!

  7. For context, Altoona’s population peaked in 1930 at 82,000. Blair County’s peaked in 1940 at 140,360.

  8. my friend’s sister makes $68 an hour on the laptop . She has been without work for 10 months but last month her check was $21549 just working on the laptop for a few hours. browse this site……….
    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

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