We’re occasionally asked why there are so many crime stories featured in the pages of the Lincoln Times-News.
The people who ask that question usually wish there weren’t so many drugs and crime stories in the paper. It’s unsettling to them, particularly for those who remember a simpler, gentler time, to see the reality of drug crime in their hometown.
We sympathize with them — we wish there weren’t so many crime stories in the paper too. If there were fewer crime stories in the paper, it would mean that fewer crimes are being committed.
But it’s our job, as faithful documenters of what’s happening in all of Lincoln County, to objectively report on the activities of the various entities that are funded by taxpayer dollars. That means that when taxpayer dollars are utilized by law enforcement officers to serve warrants against individuals who have allegedly sold drugs in the county, like the Lincolnton Police roundup detailed in today’s edition, it’s our responsibility to report it.
But it begs the question — where does all this end?
Lincolnton Police said, in a press release about the Wednesday raids, that over 400 narcotics offenders have been arrested by the department since 2009, in similar large-scale operations.
That’s all well and good, but we must wonder what the next five years will hold. Will 400 more alleged drug dealers be arrested? One thousand more? Ten thousand more? How many will it take to actually mitigate the flow of drugs into Lincoln County?
Attitudes about drug prohibition, especially about marijuana, are changing, slowly, in this country. The tide is turning toward tolerance, to the idea that treatment, rather than incarceration, is a more appropriate action to take against nonviolent drug offenders. And it’s probable that the vast majority of the offenders picked up in police and county operations over the last five years are low- and mid-level dealers who were selling drugs to support a drug habit.
Certainly, violent high-level drug suppliers have no place in decent society. But given the number of casualties of the War on Drugs just locally in the last five years, it may be time to think about better ways to approach the issue.