Monday, July 13, 2015

Suburban Drug Dealers

According to Scott Jacques and Richard Wright, drug dealers in inner city neighbors live by the “code of the streets,” which mandates that every slight be met with violent retaliation. As one dealer put it, “You can’t let people get over on you, even if it’s five dollars.”

In the suburbs, not so much.
In most cases of potential conflict, nothing happened.

For example, one teen named Adam was angry that his friend hadn’t paid him for the ounce of marijuana and two ounces of mushrooms that he’d sold him a few weeks earlier. Fed up, Adam threatened to kill the guy. “You’re going to kill me over $400?” the debtor said, to which Adam replied, “Yeah, I guess not.” And that was that.

In another case, a dealer named Robert returned home from high school to find that someone had stolen a quarter-pound of weed from his bedroom. The following day, convinced it was one of his friends, Robert threw the friend against a locker and threatened to beat him up after school.

Hours later, onlookers circled to watch the fight. Fists raised, the two locked eyes. There were a couple of shoves and a sucker punch. Seconds passed. But then the tension deflated. The crowd dispersed, and Robert and his friend went their separate ways.

It’s widely thought that when a drug dealer is ripped off, violent retaliation is likely to follow. But what’s striking about these two examples is that they’re more violent than the majority of conflicts we documented for our recent book about suburban drug dealing.

Most of the dealers we talked to handled their problems peacefully, either by doing nothing, avoiding the individuals who slighted them or negotiating a resolution. And it seems as though the etiquette of the suburbs—one that preaches conflict avoidance, conformity and not drawing attention to oneself—is largely responsible.
So take that, big city snobs who love your hip neighborhoods; out in the suburbs, even drug dealers resolve conflict peacefully.


G. Verloren said...

It would seem to me that the major difference is in the scrutiny they face.

Drug dealers on inner city streets are largely avoided by the poor local citizenry and ignored by the spread-thin/corrupt police, so they can operate openly and employ violence more freely to establish themselves.

In contrast, suburbanites are much more likely to call the cops, and the cops in such areas are much more likely to actually respond, so anything that would draw attention to the illicit trade (such as violence) is minimized.

Basically inner city drug dealers are more violent because they're allowed to be.

John said...

That's a really interesting way of looking at it.