Violence in Durham: Where does it come from?

 Violence in Durham

Historically and culturally, the epicenter of the violence in Durham has been the illegal street drug trade.  Within many vulnerable neighborhoods already suffering from a multitude of social ills, a new socio-economic model arose to support the drug trade during the early 1990’s.  A fairly rapid succession of drug cartels, including the New York Boys, the Detroit Boys and a number of Jamaican Posses, left a stamp of violence in a number of mostly minority neighborhoods that has become cultural in nature.

In this framework women were relegated to being objects for sexual gratification as well as aiders and abettors in crime.  Children became liabilities.  Statutory rape became pervasive.  Employment opportunities were based upon the sale and acquisition of illegal narcotics.  The work ethic in the legal economy decreased precipitously.  Deadly violence was employed for relatively minor reasons.  This is the historical source of the problem we are now facing.

This in turn created a generational problem that perpetuated oppositional and deviant behavior, including violence, which is a learned trait.  The family structure was badly damaged.  The gang replaced the family.  The primary mode of communication became intimidation and violence.

Because some neighborhoods deteriorated into gang controlled zones, there were no constraints and no consequences for what was potentially deadly and outrageous behavior.  This behavior spread throughout Durham.

Subsequently, violence and criminal behavior have been defined downward.  Shooting someone in the leg or buttocks is no longer considered by many to be a serious crime.  For a significant portion of the population that came of age during the crack epidemic of the 1990’s, this behavior has become the norm.  The widespread use of crack cocaine and heroin is also related to the learning and behavioral problems experienced by a number of children in the school system.

Problems with violence and crime are deeply embedded in the history of Durham.  Crack cocaine was not the beginning.  Neighborhood groups of criminally inclined adolescents have roamed the streets of Durham for at least sixty years.  Aside from various drug cartels and moonshine liquor operations, it is probable that the first modern day gang in Durham was the “Few Crew”, which originated in the Few Gardens housing project during the early 1980’s.

From the raucous liquor houses that existed in Durham from the 1890’s to the 1980’s, to a murder record in the mid 1930’s when 26 people were murdered, to a thriving heroin trade that goes back to the 1940’s, to the flourishing underground economy that supports the illegal drug economy, the foundation of the violence we are now experiencing has been firmly entrenched.

Large numbers of people are associated with the drug trade.  The drug trade generates millions of dollars per year in Durham.  The criminal underground is a major employer in Durham.  As gangs and gang members mature in their criminal careers, they realize that the most profitable source of a steady income is derived from the sale and distribution of illegal narcotics.

There are four concepts that are helpful in understanding the violence and property crimes that we are experiencing.  These concepts I call the “degraded street”, “the illegal underground drug based economy”, “diminished free will” and the development of ‘spontaneous orders”.

The concept of the “degraded street” is erupting from the lawlessness and chaos that exists in many of Durham’s neighborhoods.  The “degraded street” derived from the violence and deterioration generated by the street level drug trade during the early 1990’s.  It is both a physical and psychological construct.

Children who grow up on degraded streets experience open drug sales, prostitution, gun fire, physical confrontations, public urination, profanity and most of them either know someone or are related to a victim of murder.  Exposure to such moral degradation throughout childhood leaves these youngsters with the belief that this type of behavior is the norm, within the context of their experience.  This is what I call “diminished free will” and it is the most dangerous aspect of the “degraded street”.

The ability of an impulsive and immature individual to make rational decisions within a moral framework when he has had lifelong exposure to the conditions and cultural decline created by the “degraded street” is severely limited.  Therefore, because he lives on a street where the major employer is the underground economy, what would ordinarily be a rebellious and impulsive teenager is more likely to become a dangerous criminal.  The opportunity for engaging in violence and mayhem is readily available.

In this type of environment what was formerly a neighborhood brawl involving fisticuffs escalates into a series of drive by shootings ending in murder.  The “degraded street” is a living and breathing organism that spreads like a virus to other locations, such as schools, malls and neighboring communities.  Much like a virus, violence is contagious.  It leads to crimes against persons and crimes against property throughout Durham as well as in the infected areas.

This burgeoning underlying criminal culture creates what is known in Austrian economics as a “spontaneous order”.  A “spontaneous order” can be defined as the emergence of various kinds of social order from what appears to be chaotic interactions around multiple individuals without intentional human or centralized planning.  In the case of the “degraded street” youngsters subliminally create neighborhood or school groups that eventually spin off into criminal gangs.

At the instant of its formation, the violence perpetuated by the gang appears to be nonsensical and to serve no purpose.  Subsequently, the gang moves into money generating criminal behavior, such as robbery, home invasions, burglaries and drug sales.  This progression is marked by excessively violent actions.  During 2007, a small group of individuals formed a gang, The Get Money Clique, that operated on the outskirts of the Durham city limits.  Several individuals from this gang robbed and brutally killed an eighty nine year old man, stabbing him forty nine times.  This group of individuals is an example of the aforementioned “spontaneous order”.

Likewise, the concept of “the illegal drug based underground economy” has its origins in the drug trade and the crimes committed to obtain illegal drugs.  Millions of dollars are generated each year in Durham by persons who work in “the illegal drug based underground economy”, either through direct or multi-layered drug sales or by those who illegally generate the money for drug purchases. Intimidation and violence are used to settle problems related to distribution and territory.  For every one hundred thousand dollars of illegal drugs purchased by addicts, the addicts must steal at least three hundred thousand dollars of property.

It has been common on the street for the last twenty five years for a thief to receive one third of the retail value of items that he takes to a fencing operation. Therefore, the underground economy is unusually large and supplies job opportunities to thousands.  In some instances stolen items, such as over the counter medication, is processed and cleaned by workers in warehouses located in other states.

Work opportunities in the underground economy includes drug sales, armed robbery, burglary, shoplifting and larceny, prostitution, human trafficking, fencing, identity theft, fraud, money laundering, sale of counterfeit goods, vehicle thefts and chop shops, as well as operating business fronts designed to conceal criminal activity.  Most individuals, who are technically unemployed, are actually employed in the underground economy.

The culture generated by these types of activities is not conductive to a cohesive family unit.  Domestic violence, the murder of women and the abuse of children increased significantly within this new family framework.  Violence from the drug culture contaminates all other aspects of life.

Young males, abandoned by their fathers, who work as drug dealers in the underground economy and as a result are periodically incarcerated, frequently suffer from depression, anger and a hypertensive and irrational pride that tend to generate arrests for charges like simple assault, disorderly conduct, injury to property and trespass.  This is classic self-destructive behavior frequently engaged in by troubled youth who experience rejection from one or both of their biological parents.  In many cases these arrests are driven by these young males reacting negatively to discipline imposed by their mothers or grandmothers who are trying to guide them along the appropriate path.

Subsequently, these males do not show up for their court appearances, are rearrested for failure to appear, and are then caught up in a seemingly never ending revolving door in the court system. Unable to pay court fines and lacking the skills and preparation to work, these borderline mentally ill adolescents are perfect recruits for the underground economy. The “illegal underground drug based economy” drives this family dysfunction through generation after generation.

The number of crimes committed is directly related to the “degraded street”, the “illegal drug based underground economy”, “diminished free will”, and “spontaneous orders”’. The criminal atmosphere that currently exists has created its own culture as well as its own socio-economic model. This problem is escalating and is destroying lives and the family structure. More vulnerable young men and women will be sucked into the “illegal drug based underground economy” because such employment is considered to be the norm in a significant part of Durham. Even middle to upper class youngsters with strong family ties are frequently caught up in this criminal infrastructure.

The growth of the “degraded street”, and the “illegal drug based underground economy”, accompanied and nourished by “diminished free will” and “spontaneous orders” has created a street level order that causes and simultaneously creates criminal employment opportunities and a culture of violence that penetrates into interpersonal relations. Until this systemic construct is vigorously attacked by law enforcement as well as with various therapeutic methods- including drug treatment that actually works, lives will continue to be destroyed and the quality of public education will deteriorate for a significant number of our children.

-Paul Martin

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.