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What kinds of drug and crime problems are found where you live?


The focus group participants from the Brooklyn Treatment Court lived in neighborhoods within Brooklyn, most with serious drug and crime problems:

  • Where I live . . . a lot of gun shooting.

  • Police everywhere, people getting high everywhere.

  • Where I used to live . . . drugs around the clock. . . .

  • I can’t go back there. . . . I’m tired of trying to deal with the stick-ups, fireworks, whatever type of crime. . . .

  • It’s not really that bad . . . mostly marijuana in my area . . . lots of robberies, stick-ups . . . but other than that it’s pretty good.

  • Just to make a long story short, they call my neighborhood three blocks around “Gunsmoke”—that should tell you right there.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas drug court participants were diverse in their racial and ethnic backgrounds and included recent arrivals from locations as far flung as California, Michigan, Mississippi, and Washington. Several participants said that they did not see pronounced drug and crime problems in the areas in which they lived. Many others, however, saw a great deal of drug activity and serious crime quite often in their neighborhoods:

  • Drugs, violence, gangs . . . you name it.

  • In mine a lot of dealing dope, meth, and a lot of ganking other people sh** for no reason—you know everybody gets all whacked out and starts stealing everybody sh**. . . . Me personally, I just get high and do my own thing, sleep around the house, you know.

  • Well, all the crime boil down to drugs because I used to try to sell drugs to support my drug habit and then I got caught, so then I changed over and then a lot of my friends that lives in the neighborhood that were drug addicts they taught me how to become a professional booster.

A large number of the Las Vegas participants saw drugs as both a major problem in their neighborhoods and as the cause of much of the other neighborhood crime. These drug-related crimes included gangs, gang-related crime, and violence in particular neighborhoods, in addition to less violent forms of crime, such as prostitution and theft:

  • Well, it’s like gang-infested, drugs-infested, like most of it—PCP, marijuana, crack cocaine, that’s what I see every day.

  • I would say, um, crack cocaine. . . . Well, people do things so they can buy another rock, you know, from prostitution to gripping people up, robbing them. . . .

  • A lot of drugs. I mean just the selling of them.

  • One of the things I don’t like about Vegas, just my opinion, is when you’re walking down the street and they think you’re a prostitute, that’s the worst one here I hate. . . . It doesn’t matter how big or ugly you are or how you are dressed. . . . For me, that’s my biggest problem.

Local shootings were felt by Las Vegas participants to be gang-related. Theft, car break-ins, aggressive panhandling, vandalism, and car thefts were all mentioned as being commonly observed by participants.

  • I work downtown every day, so I see aggressive panhandling that involves street people, a lot of pinching activity going on, a lot of people drinking, and a lot of car burglaries. . . . Out where I live, which is by John Glenny, you see more homeless, a lot of people drinking, and a lot of car burglaries.

  • I seen shootings, like in the summertime you are sitting outside and I saw a few shootings.

  • In my neighborhood there is a lot of domestic violence openly on the street. It is directly related to drugs and alcohol. They can hardly talk.

  • There is a lot of territorial crime too, over drugs. There’s supposed to be one part of the place where these people are supposed to be selling and somebody done came in and so they rivaling and he’s jealous. . . .

  • I guess it was on the next block, I don’t think it was on my block. . . . I heard this loud banging on my door and, you know, I looked out the window and there was just somebody covered in blood. I guess he was stabbed. . . . It was drug-related.


Miami participants also described drug and crime problems in their neighborhoods:

  • Where you shouldn’t live . . . Overtown and Brownsub, Liberty City, Little Haiti.

  • At the beach . . . on the main street, people ask me for heroin. . . .

  • I live in Brownsub—they call it Brownsub now . . . Brownsville, a graveyard and that like where they mainly sell the crack cocaine, have high speed chases, they jump out of cars near the graveyard and the police searchlights, the dogs, and they come through. . . .

  • Crack, cocaine, weed, anything. There’s enough drugs around—like kids walking around breaking into cars; all the crime scenes; basically crack.

  • Stealing people’s stuff off their clothesline, where I live. . . .

  • Even if you live in Miami Lakes, it’s just a more sophisticated but like a concealed thing; it’s like undercover. They lawyers and all, but they use, but they under cover with it, and they ain’t walking down the street. . . .

  • The way I see it over here in Miami, I mean not only in Miami, anywhere there’s drugs, there will be crimes, ’cause crime follows the drugs. . . . I may live over here and they sell drugs over there, but comes to a point where the neighborhood gets burnt out . . . you ain’t got nothin’ to steal. It won’t be much crime as far as breaking enterings and stuff like that but there will be the dope. So what we got to do, a drug user, is we go somewhere else and find ’em, we’ll break in. Y’know that’s where it comes in at.

  • With drugs in Miami, if you want it you can find it, anywhere in Miami . . . whatever part you go through.

  • It’s just an open-air market. . . . You walk in and get it from anyone.


Participants in the Portland drug court focus group resided in different parts of Portland, with a few living outside of the city. Most participants reported that drugs were a problem in their neighborhoods, but acknowledged that drugs are more visible in some parts of Portland than in others.

  • I live in North Portland and there’s a lot of methamphetamine, a lot of crack cocaine, a lot of weed.

  • I live in North Portland also and there’s not so much sales going on as where I use to live. I use to live on Mississippi and Skidmore, which is right down the middle of everything. But now what I see is syringes at the bus stop, I see truck drivers making deals, also cocaine and heroin on the train.

  • We lived on Skidmore and Mississippi. We’d walk half a block and get crack cocaine any time of the day or night in any quantity.

  • I live in an upper-class working neighborhood just this side of Gresham and I would probably say I rarely had to go out of my area to get my drugs. I would say basically alcohol and methamphetamines.

  • I live in Hilltop. I saw a lot of people using cocaine and marijuana.

  • Well, I live in Sunderland so there isn’t much crime up there, but I’ve been to the West Side, you know what I mean, and I don’t know, I think it has to do a lot like with gangs and just protecting your territory.

  • I live in Beaverton and we have like nothing out there. I found when I lived in Gresham there was an overabundance of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin everywhere, every apartment complex.

  • I live in the southeast end, you know, a fourplex, and in any direction I want to go, there’s something there. Mostly amphetamines.

  • Okay, when we lived on Mississippi and Skidmore, there was not one car that had a radio antenna on it in the whole neighborhood, they had all been broken off and made into crack pipes.

San Bernardino

When asked to describe drug crime problems in their neighborhoods, San Bernardino participants pointed to difficult areas within the city of San Bernardino:

  • I live not too far from drug court, so the neighborhood is all right, there’s not too much crime, but speed has definitely taken over the neighborhood.

  • For drugs and crime, the worst part of the area [San Bernardino County] is San Bernardino [the city]. [Many voices expressing general consensus.]

  • The worst part of town . . . it’s the West Side of San Bernardino. [General agreement.]

  • I live in San Bernardino in the Meadowbrook Apartments and it’s the spot, you can get everything you want: speed, cocaine, alcohol. . . .

  • I live in San Bernardino. Where I live there is basically a lot of drugs. Basically anything you want is there.

  • There are a lot of guns, stealing, robbing. . . .


Seattle drug court participants were also able to sketch a map of drug and crime neighborhoods in that city:

  • Most of my life I lived in the Seattle area. Now it’s predominately cocaine; when I was growing up it was predominately heroin, marijuana.

  • Yes, there’s a lot of crime involving theft and pawn shops—there’s also drug dealing.

  • I live in Capitol Hill, Seattle, and the building I live in, there’s lots of heroin use and crack cocaine use.

  • I grew up in Bellevue and my parents live out there but I recently moved onto their boat. . . . It’s not easy getting out there but aside from that, when I was homeless I stayed on Capitol Hill and it’s really crummy—all you have to do is walk down Broadway and I’d run into somebody to give me sh**. . . . And you know that never happened when I was strung out. It happens now when I’m clean.

  • I live in Kirkplant. . . . But they call it Cokeplant. . . .

  • I live in Century Village, CV. It’s mostly cocaine.

  • Burglaries and drug dealing right next door in Ranton.

  • I live in Ranton. There ain’t no drugs around me.

  • I live on 130 and the World and it’s a high prostitute area but as far as drugs, not really, not anymore.

  • I stay in Chinatown and the place where I’m staying is surrounded by crime by . . . drugs, heroin, upstairs, so it’s around. . . .

  • [To avoid high crime, active drug areas, don’t live in] the Morrison, downtown, Chinatown, Magnolia, Central District, South Seattle. . . .

Back to Neighborhood Problems

An Honest Chance: Perspectives on Drug Courts April 2002