Battlefield: Prohibition Driving Gang Violence in Fort Pierce

Fort Pierce has been plagued with gang violence as homicides and shootings have become a regular occurrence.  Sadly Michael Goforth laments that we need more gun laws since violent criminals obey current laws.

And, while the violence continues, I said, there is little talk among political leaders about more gun control, though both the mayor and police commissioner in Chicago blamed lax gun laws in part for gunfire and deaths during the Fourth of July holiday there.

guns chicagoLax gun laws in Chicago? Chicago is the poster-city for gun control advocates in America yet violence rages in Chicago despite its tight gun control laws. Detroit, unlike Chicago, however has seen dips in violent crime without adding gun control laws that criminals don’t follow.

Goforth would like to turn Fort Pierce into Chicago regardless of the logic because that is a progressive ideal that he holds. Goforth writes:

Neither politicians nor law enforcement officials are talking about more gun control in Fort Pierce or St. Lucie County to combat the violent gang crime and the murders that have been occurring in the city.

More laws will not stop or combat crime.  More laws will only add charges to the dockets for those who do not follow the law.

Goforth shows strict respect for the law but fails to take into account that criminals don’t follow laws.  Otherwise they wouldn’t be criminals right? Does anyone believe gang members follow laws?

Perhaps Goforth would like to ban guns as we have banned drugs as it is obvious that drug laws have eliminated the drug problem and drugs are nowhere to be found in Fort Pierce.

Unfortunately blind obedience to progressive ideals is not going to reduce violent crime or organized crime in Fort Pierce.

Goforth and city officials think that locking up criminals will solve the problem.  However they are simply replaced with others on the streets.

How about defunding gangs? Would removing the sources of revenue for gangs help to limit their ability to buy weapons?  Would eliminating their hold on the black-market help to reduce crime in Fort Pierce?

History certainly suggests so.

Drug prohibition has increased gang violence and gang profits just as alcohol prohibition had the same affects and gave rise to gangs led by criminals such as Al Capone.

Areas of Fort Pierce have become a battlefield due to the drug war which funds gangs and their violence.

Economist Dr. Mark Thornton has studied the effects of prohibition closely and notes the consequences.

The war on drugs is literally a street war. Smugglers, drug dealers, and street gangs—who make their money selling drugs—are armed to the teeth with high-powered weapons. The police counter with machine guns, bullet-proof vests and helmets, and even tanks. The collateral damage to innocent people has been enormous.

Does this sound like Fort Pierce to you?

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition also notes that  prohibition fuels gang violence.

It is prohibition that makes these drugs so valuable –  while giving criminals a monopoly over their supply. Driven by the huge profits from this monopoly, criminal gangs bribe and kill each other, law enforcers, and children. Their trade is unregulated and they are, therefore, beyond our control.

Thornton writes about the connectivity between prohibition and organized crime.

Organized crime has long been associated with prohibition. Prohibitions against prostitution, gambling, “high” interest rates, and the consumption of drugs have served as the basis for virtually all known crime syndicates. Humbert S. Nelli (1985) shows that syndicates that developed during Prohibition survived long after repeal. Street gangs profit and expand based on their role in organizing retail drug sales. Their violent criminal activity has been a growing and very visible result of the war on drugs during the 1980s and 1990s. Gangs also developed in the late 1920s in response to the profit potential provided by Prohibition. In 1930 Frederick Thrasher, a sociologist, warned of the growing threat of gangs. He noted that the economic incentive led gangs to work for criminals and racketeers (Pandiani 1982, 349).

In fact lessons from history show us that ending alcohol prohibition decreased murder rates as Thornton wrote recently (bold and parenthetical note added).

The murder rate had doubled and violent crime was up significantly (when alcohol prohibition began). Gangs and organized crime ruled the streets. A person probably would not be able to afford a beer even if he could find one. The only thing generally available was “rotgut” whiskey.

..With Repeal achieved, the entire alcohol industry, including distilleries, breweries, and wineries, were back at work. Workers were rehired. Input suppliers like farmers could feel the surge in demand for their products and services.

Crime dropped; with the murder rate falling precipitously back to its pre-Prohibition level. Violent crime and crime in general dropped significantly. The source of money for bribery, corruption, and street gangs largely evaporated.

Thornton continues in another article about the correlation between prohibition and gang violence.

Drug prohibition is the single biggest burden on the criminal-justice budget. It is also a large burden for more than a dozen budgets within the federal government, and it is a growing burden on state and local budgets. The incarceration of hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug offenders often leads to the breakup of families and the loss of breadwinners, placing additional burdens on social services.

The criminal-justice system is overwhelmed, and the prisons are filled far beyond capacity. As a result, violent criminals are receiving early release from their sentences. Other measures of crime and violence are also disturbing. Street gangs use the illegal-drug business to finance and expand their activities. It has been estimated that the United States now has nearly 800,000 gang members. Organized crime continues to grow in numbers and sophistication — as well as the level of violence.

History shows us that prohibition helps fund gangs and drives gang violence over turf where they control black-market trade. Recent lessons from Fort Pierce show that when a crackdown on violent crime takes place it subsides for a short time and then resumes with new criminal replacing the incarcerated ones.

Goforth’s wishes for a prohibition on guns will not have the results he intends either. Mark Thornton also points out how though alcohol (like drugs) are prohibited they are still available to those who ignore prohibition laws.

Prohibition made alcohol illegal, but it did not eliminate it. Illegal producers known as moonshiners sold their illegal product to illegal distributors known as bootleggers, who in turn sold it to illegal retail establishments known as speakeasies. Everything had to be secretive. The process was overseen by organized crime syndicates and street gangs who paid bribes to corrupt politicians and law enforcement. Respect for the law sank to an all-time low.

But prohibition does fuel organized crime and gang violence which drove the homicide rate up through alcohol prohibition as Thornton notes in Alcohol Prohibition Was A Failure.

The number of violations of Prohibition laws and violent crimes against persons and property continued to in- crease throughout Prohibition. Figure 4 shows an undeniable relationship between Prohibition and an increase in the homicide rate. The homicide rate increased from 6 per 100,000 population in the pre-Prohibition period to nearly 10 per 100,000 in 1933. That rising trend was reversed by the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, and the rate continued to decline throughout the 1930s and early 1940s.[48]

murder rate

Fig 4

Thornton continues:

Not only did the number of serious crimes increase, but crime became organized. Criminal groups organize around the steady source of income provided by laws against victimless crimes such as consuming alcohol or drugs, gambling, and prostitution. In the process of providing goods and services, those criminal organizations resort to real crimes in defense of sales territories, brand names, and labor contracts. That is true of extensive crime syndicates (the Mafia) as well as street gangs, a criminal element that first surfaced during Prohibition.

Fort Pierce would be best served by repealing drug prohibition as this will hurt the ability of gangs to earn revenue and eliminate turf wars.  In The Economics of Prohibition Thornton writes:

Prohibitions have also been associated with organized crime and gangs. Violence is used in black markets and criminal organizations to enforce contracts, maintain market share, and defend sales territory. The crime and violence that occurred during the late 1920s and early 1930s was a major reason for the repeal of Prohibition (Kyvig 1979, 123, 167).

wpid-ban-things.jpg-large.jpegInstead of the silly idea that we need more laws to keep criminals from breaking current laws.  Lets take the money out of gangs. Lets cuts the massive profits the gangs make on drug trade.  Lets eliminate their black-market and the turf war they fight over it. Lets cut the allure of the money that may encourage youth to join gangs.

Continuing crack down on current gang members will only lead to new gang members in their place.  What good does adding a charge to the docket of a gang member do if they have already committed a violent act?

homicide watchCriminals don’t obey laws.  More gun control will only create more chaos as we have seen in Chicago, which Goforth continues to compare us to.  Lets not make the same mistake as the Chicago where the Sun-Times has launched a Homicide Watch website as a result of the gun prohibition laws that Goforth so covets.  Perhaps the interactive map of murders and the faces of victims will so persuade Goforth to reconsider failed prohibition policies in the faces of the deceased, the lessons of history and the insights of economics. But maybe it isn’t about saving lives or reducing crime.  Maybe it is about control.

If Goforth really does care about the violence and the havoc being wrecked on the northwest Fort Pierce community why would he make it tougher for the law-abiding citizens to defend themselves from the gang violence that occurs in the face of current laws? Why would Goforth leave the good defenseless on the battlefield Fort Pierce has become?

Thomas-sowell-gun control racismIf it is the community that is the concern than drug prohibition also needs a closer look.  Not only does drug prohibition fuel organized crime and violence but the drug prohibition leads to higher incarceration rates of minorities than whites.  Drug prohibition locks people in cages for victimless crimes.  Those who are jailed could be mothers and fathers creating single-parent homes and taking an income earner out of the household when most families today need two income earners just to get by.

Drug Policy Alliance notes the racial bias found in the enforcement of drug prohibition.

The drug war has produced profoundly unequal outcomes across racial groups, manifested through racial discrimination by law enforcement and disproportionate drug war misery suffered by communities of color. Although rates of drug use and selling are comparable across racial lines, people of color are far more likely to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated for drug law violations than are whites. Higher arrest and incarceration rates for African-Americans and Latinos are not reflective of increased prevalence of drug use or sales in these communities, but rather of a law enforcement focus on urban areas, on lower-income communities and on communities of color as well as inequitable treatment by the criminal justice system. We believe that the mass criminalization of people of color, particularly young African-American men, is as profound a system of racial control as the Jim Crow laws were in this country until the mid-1960s.

drug war racist

Effects of Drug Prohibition in Chicago

How bad is it? According to the US Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Male and female white prisoners of all age groups had lower imprisonment rates than male and female black and Hispanic prisoners. Overall, black males were 6 times and Hispanic males 2.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than white males in 2012. Hispanic males ages 18 to 19 were more than 3 times as likely as white males of the same age to be imprisoned, while all other age groups were at least twice as likely as white males to be serving a prison sentence. Black males had imprisonment rates at least 4 times those of white males in all age groups. The rates for black males age 39 or younger were more than 6 times greater than white males of the same age. Male inmates ages 18 to 19 had the largest imprisonment rate disparity between whites and blacks. Black males in this age group were almost 9.5 times more likely than white males to be in prison.

drug war racism

When examining state prison statistics the numbers are similar.

Proportion of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison that are black or Hispanic, although these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites: 61 percent

wpid-statist-village.jpegGoforth also writes of Larry Lee’s effort to “Restore the Village” yet prohibition policies have ripped families apart and have turned it into a battlefield.

Following an outbreak of violence in Fort Pierce last year, state Rep. Larry Lee Jr. launched a “Restoring the Village” effort to bring groups of people together to combat different areas of concern.

“We’ve lost the village,” Lee told city commissioners. “We have to restore that village mentality.”

The Village was lost long ago when well-intentioned but misguided people criminalized drug trade and helped to fuel organized crime and violence.

Fort Pierce is not going to change or get much better by keeping good people from defending themselves while gang-members continue to break laws. Not only will it not have negative consequences as seen in Chicago but it will further failed prohibition policies of drugs and alcohol and extend this terrible policy to guns and self-defense.

When you hear nonsense about gun control the advocate is never really against guns but who owns the guns as guns will be used to take weapons away from others.  It is not about guns.  It is all about control and ideology. This is without mentioning that gun control ideology contributed to almost 260 million deaths in the 20th century alone.



The Economics of Prohibition

Alcohol Prohibition was a Failure

Prohibition Caused the Greatness of Gatsby

Mark Thornton on Prohibition, Marijuana and the Loss of Elite Control

Nullify the War on Drugs

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Why Legalize Now?

Homicide Watch Chicago

Prisoners in 2012

A Judge Against the Drug War?

Drug War Statistics

World Health Organization Calls for Drug Decriminalization and Broad Drug Policy Reforms

Race and the Drug War

Drug War Facts

Race and Prison

The Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Race

The War on Marijuana in Black and White

The New Jim Crow: What’s Next?

Drug War Racism

Watch Thornton  give a live lecture on YouTube on July 26.

Immigration and the War on Drugs

How the Drug War Drives Child Migrants to the US Border Text Version

The War on Drugs: More Unintended Consequences

Nazi Gun Control

Gun Control in Nazi Germany

Analyzing Prohibition: Neoclassical versus Austrian

Michael Goforth: Law enforcement going after Fort Pierce gangs and guns – Story.

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