The arrest last week of an 11-year-old boy as part of a drug sweep in the city is vivid evidence, as if Baltimore needed any more, that not only are we losing the war against drugs, but also, its victims increasingly are younger and more vulnerable.
The 11-year-old was a "runner," hired by a drug dealer, as are many other children, precisely because they are minors and as such, if they are caught, will likely face legal penalties less harsh than those meted out to adults. These kids are frightfully easy to coerce; the promise of big money in a poor neighborhood is usually lure enough.
The traditional, punitive law enforcement approach is a sorely inadequate response. In reality, it does little more than write off these children by labeling them as criminals at an early age, then warehousing them in juvenile detention centers, stifling whatever productive potential they may possess. Nonetheless, the "law enforcement" mind set has dominated the national drug war for a decade.