Drugs in our neighborhood

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Police Chief Marc Adams has never passed up the opportunity to tell citizens that Keizer is in the center of the drug trail that starts in Mexico. For anyone who has not taken his words seriously, he is backed up by a comprehensive investigative report, Under the Curse of Cartels, appearing this week in The Oregonian and its web site oregonlive.com.

Senior investigation reporter Les Zaitz spent months learning about how the Mexican drug cartels operate and how they get their products into all parts Oregon, urban and rural. The five-part series is a sobering wake-up call about what is happening right under our noses.

In May 2012 a 21-year-old Keizer woman was the fourth person to die due to a heroin overdose. Five men were indicted in relation to her death (the cases are still pending). Laurin Putnam’s death was a devastating yet small part in Oregon’s drug war. Putnam was a final stop on the brutal and deadly curse of cartel drugs here.

The Mexican drug cartels are well-run business organizations which resort to bribery, threats and even murder to achieve their goals of flooding the U.S. with meth, heroin, cocaine and marijuana. They have the money and manpower to get drugs to users. This, while many law enforcement organizations are plagued with budget cuts.

The Keizer Police Department along with many other smaller departments across the state have had to deal with declining budgets over the past few years. Declining budgets mean that police departments are forced to cut resources that help conduct investigations and operations that are aimed to curtail drugs.

The Oregonian’s series shows the effects of cartel-supplied drugs on our state. It is understood that drug cartels, or any supplier, would have a harder time if they were faced with declining demand.

Reducing the demand for illicit drugs by Americans is the key to our drug problem. That’s easier said than done since there are a variety of reasons people use drugs: depression, excitement, peer pressure. Like most social issues we need to start with our youth. This is not a goal that the public should expect is the the sole providence of law enforcement.

Many law-abiding citizens may feel that drugs don’t personally affect their daily life and therefore the solution is not their job. We all pay in one way or another for the scourge of drugs in our society, such as being a victim of crime by money-seeking users. Police can’t do the job of decreasing the demand by themselves;  all of us must do what we can. Everyone must be vigilant about what their kids are doing, who they hang around with. Those involved with their neighborhood watch programs can alert police about suspected drug houses.

The law enforcement people who spoke to The Oregonian’s Les Zaitz for his drug cartel series said they were giving him unprecedented access to documents so Oregonians would know the extent of the Mexican drug cartels in the state and how hard it is to fight them. Government agencies can continue to spend scarce money to intercept drugs coming up the Interstate 5/U.S. Highway 97 corridor, raid and close drug houses, but it will all be for naught until and unless we find a way to reduce our seemingly insatiable appetite for the drugs that do so much damage.

—LAZ

[Ed. Note: Les Zaitz is an owner of the Keizertimes.]

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