Monday 29 March 2021

Decriminalising possession of all drugs, prostitution and minor crime to improve animal welfare

Baltimore in the USA had done something radical. Baltimore's top prosecutor has decriminalised the possession of all drugs, along with prostitution and other minor street crimes. The objective: to improve public safety in what was one of America's most dangerous cities. I say "was" because it has worked. In this city the drug war is over said Marilyn Mosby. They have, in the words of the mayor, "reimagined public safety". In other words they have taken a completely different position on how to improve public safety. And I'm going to argue in this post that if you improve the safety of the public you also improve the safety of companion animals who live with the public.

Baltimore, USA. Image by emitea from Pixabay 

And the safety of companion animals, particularly domestic cats, is my overriding concern. Baltimore won't even prosecute criminals who possess heroin. They don't prosecute for non-violent crimes of attempted drug distribution, possession of drug paraphernalia, trespassing and minor traffic offences and, as mentioned, prostitution. These infractions are now dealt with as community health problems and the perpetrators are redirected to social services or other sections of Baltimore's public health system.

Over the past year, during the coronavirus pandemic, many American cities have experienced a spike in violence whereas violent crime in Baltimore has fallen by 20%. Property crime has dropped by 36%. The number of prisoners has fallen by 18% and there has been a fall in the number of people entering the criminal justice system by 39%.

In Baltimore they measure public concern by the number of emergency calls about drug use and sex work. Between March and December 2020 these calls dropped by one third with respect to drug use and by one half with respect to sex work.

They are going to focus on violent offences like armed robbery and carjacking together with drug distribution organisations. These are the underbelly of violence in Baltimore.

I think this story need to be digested by anybody who is considering how to improve public safety and reduce levels of crime in their city or municipality. It's a good test case. It has probably released some of the tension in Baltimore. If law enforcement is constantly cracking down on petty crime there is a constant level of tension between the authorities and the citizens. 

I don't know for sure because I am not an expert but to try and help drug takers through social services and health systems is far more ameliorative and palliative and therefore more gentle than cracking down on these people who certainly need help.

Perhaps that attitude from the authorities has feed through to society, making these perpetrators less aggressive and with less aggression you are less likely to have incidents of violence against animals. Often animals are the victims of spontaneous acts of aggression from citizens either on drugs or alcohol. Alcoholism is  an outlet for aggression and anger. If you reduce the level of anger in society you should reduce the level of animal abuse and cruelty. I'm thinking aloud so I don't know for sure but it makes sense to me.

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