Pure Fear: Worse than Heroin, this drug’s addictive power was terrifying. People under its influence didn’t drift off to Elysium. Nor did it persuade inadequate individuals that they could conquer the world. No, this drug – pure crystal methamphetamine, “P” for short – unlocked the gates of Hell itself. It conducted its users not to God, but straight to the Devil.
IT MUST BE 20 years, now, since the old hippie’s prophecy. Labour and the Alliance had just formed a government – with the Greens in tow. Nandor Tanczos, wearing his green hemp suit, had skateboarded into Parliament to cries of “Decriminalise Dope!” from his shaggy supporters. All things seemed possible. It was a hopeful time.
But, the old hippie, who looked like Gandalf: long white hair and beard to match; wasn’t hopeful.
New Zealand, he said, was about to be overwhelmed by a drug more terrible than any he had ever before encountered. Worse than Heroin, its addictive power was terrifying. People under its influence didn’t drift off to Elysium. Nor did it persuade inadequate individuals that they could conquer the world. No, this drug – pure crystal methamphetamine, “P” for short – unlocked the gates of Hell itself. It conducted its users not to God, but straight to the Devil.
The old hippie could not see how P could be stopped. The same ingenious Kiwis who had infused plain old New Zealand Green with near-psychedelic potency would be “cooking” methamphetamine before you could say “Breaking Bad”. And, after just one taste, their customers would be back for more, and more, and more, and more. No need to wait upon the seasons. No more trimming resinous heads. No more bulky packages to transport. P could be sold in fractions of a gram. According to “Gandalf”, the P-dealers’ biggest problem was going to be coming up with a way to clean all that dirty money!
He saw it all. The ruthlessness that would follow the introduction of P to New Zealand’s illegal drug market. Serious money, he said, attracts serious people. If you are sitting on hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in used banknotes, then you’re instantly an irresistible target. Arming yourself with something designed to win arguments quickly and decisively makes perfect sense. Your bosses, as unforgiving as they are uninsured, are not the sort of people you want to trouble with tales of loss.
And, twenty years later, here we are – right where “Gandalf” said we would be. Awash with methamphetamine. Awash with “serious people”. Awash with dirty money. Awash with addicts. Awash with the awful social misery serious drug addiction leaves churning in its wake.
New Zealand, like Tolkien’s Shire, has begun to attract attention. We are now on the international drug suppliers’ maps. A small but vigorous market, well worth investing in. And just look at the “investors” who have come a-calling!
Time was when our Kiwi “cooks” got their pseudoephedrine from cold remedies. When these became harder to get, Chinese “triads” took up the slack. Then the Aussies started exporting their worst Kiwi-born criminals across the Tasman. These new gangsters turned out to be linked-in to the supply-chains of the Central and South American drug cartels.
Very serious people indeed!
What to do? Who wants to mess with “the men from Sinaloa”? Is New Zealand big enough to win this fight? On the other hand, can we afford to lose it?
The answer is, we have to win this fight – because the scourge of methamphetamine is relentless. Yes, it is well established in our big cities, but it is also taking hold in those rural and provincial communities from which all who can have already fled. Looking at these dwindling country towns, all the gangsters see are captive markets waiting to be bled dry: economically, physically, emotionally and spiritually. They don’t care – which means we must.
So, let’s have a great deal less political grand-standing, and a great deal more cross-party co-operation and consensus. Rather than put the boot into National for declaring war on the gangs – who are, when all is said and done, the people who make the illegal drug market work – why not invite the Opposition to join with the governing parties in formulating a long-term and unflinching bi-partisan strategy to combat the scourge of methamphetamine from top to bottom?
Yes, Simon Bridges has borrowed a silly Australian name for his task force, but the “broken windows” strategy of not letting even small-scale criminal offending go unchallenged is a bloody good one. Make this country such a difficult environment in which to operate that the gangs’ international suppliers decide that our methamphetamine game is no longer worth their candle.
Prove my old hippie friend wrong – by X-ing P.
This essay was originally published in The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 29 November 2019.
" “broken windows” strategy of not letting even small-scale criminal offending go unchallenged is a bloody good one."
No it isn't it's bloody nonsense. As usual it's been tried in the US and found to be a bloody failure. Oh dear Laura Norder bloody well strikes again.
We can have a special drug squad, but we need strong sentences to support the work the squad would need to do - 3 strikes. !0,20 years then natural life.
Hear ya & with ya. It's past 'high' time.
Something akin to “Reefer Madness” breaks out on Bowalley Rd…
Lets legalise Cannabis before yet again “working for the clampdown” on Gangs. Many people like to rearrange their consciousness in various ways, typically with substances, partly from hedonism and partly submerged existential angst. The authorities have never changed this behaviour permanently. Addiction is a health issue and even the NZ Police are trying that approach in some communities now.
Meth is a curse for some individuals and their fellow citizens in close proximity, but the answer is certainly not endorsing the dirty filthy NZ National Party’s authoritarianism.
Not sure what you've read on this GS, any links?
There does appear to be some justification for, in effect, raising the price of crime (not so much in the effectiveness of heavier sentencing but in the likelihood of getting caught) in reducing offending.
That still leaves the question of motivations towards crime in the first place, obviously inequality is a factor.
I'm sure you will enjoy this short (6 minute) clip from a lecture:Birth of The Criminal Mind
Pouring more money into police and corrections is not the way to solve this problem.
Well said Chris - 100% agree with you. Guerilla Surgeon - what is your evidence that it has been tried in the US and found to be a failure - my understanding is that the idea came from America - New York - and was hugely successful (Think Rudy Guiliani)! Consequences for actions are a great way of getting someone to think before repeating offences - pain is an excellent teacher.
You are quite right about the danger of P, Chris.
A heroin junkie goes to sleep after a hit.
A grass smoker just gets stoned.
A P user goes high wired, berserk, aggressive. Worse than crack cocaine.
GS, I moved away from corporate life to a small town and a job that several times a day brings me in touch with "broken" parts of society. Laura Norder moved out ages ago and revisits only under duress. Laura's home has been ransacked, squatters use P there when not at the "welfare" or doing crime to pay the gang for supplies. Violence is implicit. Members of the Norder family still live nearby, they want Laura back.
Tiger, the bipartisan approach effectively draws the teeth from that Right wing shibboleth. The benefit to the Left is that the false accusation of being soft on crime gets shelved.
Philip. It has been studied. The main problem with it is that crime went down everywhere in the US at the same time as it did in New York under broken windows. Including as far as I know places where the police were not only corrupt but dysfunctional, such as Los Angeles.
The idea came from Zimbardo, who actually only said that the appearance of disorder encouraged crime – so broken windows. Chris, you should know how that "common sense" is often debunked by scientific enquiry – unless there was another "liberal arts student Chris Trotter" swanning about Otago University in the late 1970s early 1980s.
Here are the best links I can find for people who don't have access to academic databases.
And just in case you:
And I must say it's a refreshing change not to be abused for this comment. I think no matter what we think about the solutions to crime we should all agree that whatever policies are put in place should be based on the best scientific evidence rather than emotional appeals to that good old Laura Norder.
What National, Labour and the other colonial parties have wrought separately they will not be able to undo together. Colonialism brought drugs to Aotearoa and has hugely profited from them for the past two centuries. The use of drugs in Aotearoa will never be controlled under the colonial regime.
The solution can only come from within our own people and it will be comprehensive, rejecting the use of all addictive and mind-altering substances in daily life. That includes methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, nicotine and coffee. Some substances which the regime would rather we left alone, some which towards which it is ambivalent, and others which it actively promotes in its own misconceived interests. The whole gamut.
We do not condone any drug on the grounds that it generates revenue or is an essential ingredient of a given sub-culture. They all have to go.
I lived in New York when Giuliani and his Police Chief were cracking down on "petty" crime. The transformation was enormous. New Yorkers will always be grateful to Rudy for making their streets safe again as well as for his leadership during 9/11. How to deal with the importers of P, perhaps Singapore offers an appropriate model?
Sorry alcohol is the most destructive drug in NZ. The simple answer is to legalize all drugs and take the profits away from the dealers and importers. Chinese mobsters are included and do not ride a Harley or have patches but are insidious cretins that
are now part of NZ society thanks to our very generous immigration policy. Good luck with putting that cat back in the bag,plus the
501's links with Mexican cartels.
For those reflecting on the face value success of NY's hardline policy a couple of decades ago, there has been an interesting corollary offered by some out of the box economists. After the Roe vs wade abortion ruling in the early 1970's, poor people, particularly criminal underclass & other fringe society minority groups, could access abortion services much easier. So the generation that grew to teenagers during the 1980's was much diminished in it's population of potential troublemakers. This generational coming of age timing coincided with the hardline NY policy & contributed to criminal offending rates being reduced - this result also happened outside of NY
" Nick J said...
GS, I moved away from corporate life to a small town and a job that several times a day brings me in touch with "broken" parts of society. Laura Norder moved out ages ago and revisits only under duress. Laura's home has been ransacked, squatters use P there when not at the "welfare" or doing crime to pay the gang for supplies. Violence is implicit. Members of the Norder family still live nearby, they want Laura back."
And how is this relevant to whether broken windows policing works or not? It's sort of clever, but it doesn't actually address the issue.
Nice to see a few people attempting to talk sense. The decline in crime in the US has been studied a lot, and everything from the availability of abortion to the removal of lead from petrol has been touted as "the" cause. But whatever it was it was US wide, and probably multifactorial. So it's simply a coincidence that it took place at the same time as broken windows policing was introduced.
But of course all the evidence in the world won't convince people who have some sort of emotional Thai to Laura Norder. It's unfortunate, but again science has shown – those fatal words – that providing some people with evidence against their beliefs simply confirms their beliefs and makes them stronger. But I'm not writing for them. There are people out there who might dip into this blog, and they are entitled to the science.
Tell you what though Chris I used to say this a lot but – If you could come up with some proper peer-reviewed journal articles with evidence that broken windows policing works I would the very least review my opinion and if the evidence was strong enough change my mind. What would change yours?
Guerilla Surgeon, Thanks for the links to the articles - unfortunately I cannot access the Massey link but the others make for interesting reading. Seems there is still a distinct benefit for communities from managing disorder but perhaps doing this through a non-criminalising approach works for "broken windows". I will have to look back for the data I had previously read about the New York approach and see if it is reliable. In principle though I still believe police should respond to all crimes regardless of their severity - otherwise why have laws? This definitely would build my confidence in the safety of a neighbourhood and make it worth informing the police of small crime issues as they occur - we really need more police on the job in my opinion. For instance calls to a public library (won't name it) regarding ongoing assaults etc. are regularly ignored by the police unless a weapon is involved! This does not instil confidence in your average citizen that the police are capable of protecting law abiding citizens and leads either to a fearful existence or vigilante action. (Slightly off topic sorry).
GS, "broken windows" are a metaphor for lawlessness and a sure sign that minor crime is tolerated.
When you get up close and personal with the community as my recent work has its easy to pinpoint the window breakers. They do the big, the small, the P, the violence, the gang crime. Pretty much the lot. They are a small portion of my community, the rest of whom are by and large very respecting of the law and expect it to be policed. My interactions with people living close to the law breakers indicates they expect draconian action from police and justice system. And they don't get that. Meanwhile the law breakers thumb their nose, dont care. A broken window policy sends a signal, that's what the Norder family expects.
Does it work? Don't know.
I know what broken windows are Nick and I know the theory behind it. I might even know what some people expect, but you are consistently avoiding the question of whether or not it works. What people expect about broken windows has no bearing on whether it works. People thumbing their noses at the police and society when they commit minor crimes has no bearing on whether or not it works. Nothing you have said in fact has any bearing on whether or not broken windows policing works. Perhaps you could try to work on that?
GS note I said I don't know if broken window policy works. The point is that people who are law abiding want law breakers made to adhere to the law. Otherwise why should they? Its easy to mock National when they bring up the old Laura Norder shibboleth, I'm merely pointing out why it gains traction.
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