Drug War

Atlanta Disbands Its Narcotics Unit To Focus on Violent Crimes Instead

A reduced emphasis of busting low-level dealers and users would be good news for scaling back the drug war.

|

In what we can only hope is a shift away from overly oppressive policing against low-level drug use and sales, the Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its special Narcotics Unit and shifting cops elsewhere to focus on fighting violent crime. Atlanta has seen a drop in its overall crime rate over the past two years, but homicides and aggravated assaults have both increased.

When reporter Mark Winne of WSB-TV 2 asked for confirmation, the department sent him a prepared statement confirming the news:

We know that the illegal narcotics trade is often at the center of criminal activity fueled by guns and gangs. The Department is de-centralizing its Narcotics Unit in recognition that the violence that surrounds this trade should be the focus of the entire Department, not just one team. We have had tremendous success at targeting the sale of illegal narcotics by tracking violent criminals and getting illegally-possessed guns off the streets.

Violent crime and gang activity must be the Department's primary focus and where we will have a greater impact on the crimes affecting those most often victimized in our communities.

WSB-TV's coverage has a slight air of disappointment, as if the station is unhappy that it won't be able to put those photogenic bust-down-the-door raids on the evening news anymore. Winne makes a vaguely negative reference to the idea of making this change in the midst of the opioid overdose crisis.

But if the Atlanta Police Department is realizing that "zero tolerance" drug enforcement is not the solution to gang violence, that's good news. There are indeed nasty and violent dealers out there, but decades of the drug war have taught us that a good chunk of the drug trade involves low-level dealing, often by people who are themselves addicted; harsh enforcement of drug laws has led to large numbers of nonviolent drug offenders serving long prison terms. Focusing on actual violence is surely preferable to chasing after the low-hanging fruit of undercover deals, or of raids based on info from sketchy informants with their own agendas.

It's not clear how extensive this change might be. Atlanta has another special drug unit that participates in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which helps fund multi-agency drug task forces. The statement from the Atlanta Police Department didn't mention whether it would stay involved with the HIDTA program, and a call from Reason to the department's public affairs office was not returned.

NEXT: Facts Still Matter, but They Don't Change Many Voters' Minds

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They’re of course still going to have to go after users and low-level dealers to get to the violent drug gangs.

    1. That was my first thought. But organized crime has a way of keeping the peace when keeping the peace means keeping profits high. Unfortunately establishing that sort of peace often requires an initial round of maximal violence.

  2. the Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its special Narcotics Unit and shifting cops elsewhere to focus on fighting violent crime

    , like human trafficking, right? RIGHT?!

  3. “Atlanta has seen a drop in its overall crime rate over the past two years, but homicides and aggravated assaults have both increased.”

    (Sigh)
    See what happens when I move away?

  4. It seems most drug units tend to end up engaging in crimes raging form stealing evidence to shaking down dealers. Maybe Atlanta shut them down in time. Or did they? CYA maybe?

  5. Not gonna cheer until they start issuing pink slips for blue bellies.

    1. ATL cops aren’t too bad.
      It’s the cops in the suburbs there that you really need to watch out for

      1. ATL are too busy with city policing.

        Metro Atlanta cops have few crimes, big budgets, and new city halls to pay for with traffic tickets.

        For those that dont live here in Georgia, the Lefties are expanding outside ATL proper and taking over suburb governments. Democrats love them some new City Halls, new police stations, and all the militarized police gear that goes with the Police State.

  6. Because the illicit drug market and violence have no connection to one another. Better wait for the drug dealer to kill someone first, then prosecute him for drugs and the murder. I like it. Two birds, one brain.

    This is going to work out well.

    1. *Illicit* – you write that but you don’t get how it, specifically, is the primary and damn near sole contributor to that violence.

  7. No more “dope on the table” busts to show on TV? Im so disappointed.

    1. I’m seldom at home but I don’t recall many “dope on the table” stories on the ATL TV news. We have plenty of more sensational crimes to cover than a boring old drug bust. An exception might be for famous people or in a very upscale neighborhood.

  8. I guess this is good news. But I liked Shackford better when he was covering TRANSGENDER BATHROOM PANIC.

    Come on, Scott. Go back to telling cisgender women they’re terrible people if they’d be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with Danielle Muscato.

    #TransWomenAreWomen

  9. Not surprised Winne is disappointed. WSB is primarily a Neocon propaganda outlet passing for ‘conservative’ media in ATL. They’re some of the most hardcore big-government-loving, warmongering Neocon statists in existence. They’ve never met a cop, law or punishment they don’t like. The only tolerable broadcasters at WSB are token ‘libertarian’ (self-proclaimed Anarcho-Syndicalist) Monica Perez, on Saturdays, and Mark Arum and Eric von Haessler.

    1. WSB is the property of a Billionaire heiress to the fortune of a former Democrat VP candidate.

      Monica Perez is an anarcho-capitalist. Anarcho-syndicalists are two-flagger (red and black) trade-unionist commies.

      1. Monica Perez is the real deal too. She doesn’t just play “libertarian” on the radio.

        1. I packed her house when she moved out to Cali like 10 years ago. Was there a couple days.
          Cool lady.
          Turns out Dunia, an illegal immigrant coworker, stole her husband’s Dallas Stars NHL championship ring (he was front office). $10k valuation. She split town right after. We lost a contract over that.
          Mark Arum is an awesome dude, and a very good poker player. Everyone, please listen to his show http://www.wsbradio.com/markarum/

          WSB is just like any other local news station, but I suspect Verbum is something of a progressive, so anything not spouting Marx would be called “rightwing”

          1. And, to be fair, we never found the ring or had hard proof Dunia stole it. Literally all the circumstantial evidence pointed to her though, and she left left the day after the job, completely unannounced

            1. Link to podcast of Arum’s show:
              http://www.wsbradio.com/entertainment/multimedia/mark-arum-demand/ki6pR1l2EVuhbjiaNEP4NP/

              He’s on 6-8 PM weeknights
              WSBradio 750am, 95.5fm in metro ATL

    2. Is Neil Boortz gone?

      1. He retired years ago

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.