Driving into town for drugs Suburban addicts: Arrest statistics show many purchasers don't live near drug deals.

June 24, 1998

CITY DWELLERS and suburbanites often see each other through smudged lenses. Their vision is clouded by preconceived notions of what life is like for people who live in neighborhoods different from their own.

Extreme views of the city as drug-infested amalgams of poverty are as wrong as depictions of suburbs as tidy villages without fault.

In reality, city and suburb are as alike, in some respects, as they are different. Disregard the differences in housing styles and population densities. Both are populated by ordinary people. People with the same dreams and aspirations. People with the same shortcomings and vices, including drug abuse.

The scale of addiction may be far greater in the city, but that hardly means suburbanites can act as if their drug problems don't exist. When they do, there are some not-so-gentle reminders of the real world they live in.

Like finding a 17-year-old Howard County boy slumped against a tree in the woods, dead from a drug overdose. Or having police set up a phony open-air drug market in Baltimore to discover that most of the people they arrest drove in from the suburbs.

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier had it right when he said, "If you live in the suburbs and come into the city to buy drugs, you have blood on your hands."

Many street peddlers have shot competitors for the right to do business on a particular corner. The suburban drug problem adds to the misery and violence of a city overwhelmed with 50,000 or more resident drug addicts.

Police in Baltimore's suburbs see the statistics for drug-related arrests on a steady climb. But many in suburbia won't admit what is going on.

For instance, few people have been attending community meetings sponsored by Howard County police to discuss growing heroin abuse among teen-agers. We are left to wonder how many more overdose deaths must occur before people accept the truth that is already staring them in the face.

Pub Date: 6/24/98

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