The invisible hand of Adam Smith really needs to smack Vera Katz in the back of the head. For the past three years, our mayor has championed the so-called Drug Free Zone, a patchwork of neighborhoods from which reputed crack and dope users can be booted for little or no reason. The idea behind the Zone is to remove the demand for drugs, one crackhead at a time: Eliminate, and the supply will follow. Police, the mayor, and other local politicos have almost knocked themselves over with pats on the back for applying this remedial marketplace wisdom to solving crime.
But, residents living on the frontlines of the Zones will tell you differently: Like a balloon squeezed in one section, the appetite for drugs bulges out elsewhere. That elsewhere, complain residents of the Eliot neighborhood, is in the apartments across the street from the borders of the Zones and in their backyards.
Two weeks ago, the Mercury reported about a corpse found abandoned in front of a four-plex in the Eliot neighborhood. One of the apartments was reputed to be a hub of drug commerce. Neighbors of the four-plex made particular note that the McCrack house sits precisely across the street from the border of a Zone.
Within the Zone's boundaries, the rules of policing are much more lax. For virtually any reason--bloodshot eyes, jaywalking--police may kick an individual out of the neighborhood for 90 days if they suspect of use or dealing. In an effort to extend the impact of the Zones, the City stretched the territory into the Eliot neighborhood. Shortly thereafter, drug houses began popping up in the blocks just south of the border, like brothels in Tijuana.
"This just exacerbated drug activity in our neighborhood," said one frustrated resident. Another resident of the blocks adjacent to the expanded Zone points out three apartments where users now frequent.
Even Ken Edwards, who works with Crime Prevention Agency, a neighborhood watch group, admitted that the Zones ultimately just create a game of cat-and-mouse. When asked whether expanding the Zone even further in NE Portland would eliminate the new drug houses in the Eliot neighborhood, Edwards replied that the users will just keep one step ahead. "They'll just re-locate to Beaverton," he explained.