Gloucester PDSome police and some municipal government officials have a particular way of looking at the homeless and how to treat them. They believe that any sort of official kindness extended to the homeless—accommodating panhandlers, building shelters, letting them sleep outdoors—only encourages it. If cities are nice to homeless people, they will flock to the city in swarms, and then all sorts of crime and fraud will follow.
I’ve seen that logic extend to the drug war. When I’ve talked to police about maybe not throwing users in jail if they aren’t committing any other crimes, what I’ve heard back is that, even if they agree that the drug war is a failure, they have to keep enforcing it as long as their neighbors enforce it. Otherwise, their city will be known as the place to go and freely get wasted, and all the druggies will start congregating there, again resulting in more community crimes and problems.
The police in Gloucester, Massachusetts, have decided on an alternate route. They’re not going to just accommodate illegal drug use. But what they are going to do is allow heroin addicts who want help to turn themselves into the police to be directed to rehab, rather than a jail cell. The Associated Press story even opens with an Andy Griffith Show analogue of a woman sleeping it off in a holding cell. Though, given that this is real life and not a nostalgic television comedy, it also involved a black eye and a…