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Introduction:Societal and ethnographic reports have link the arrival of crack to gang violence, high murder rates, poverty, and family disruption. Popular opinion seemed to indicate that the introduction of crack cocaine has led to increases in central-city crime and accelerated trends toward overall inner-city decay in America.. This manuscript will established (1) briefly what crack cocaine is (2) when it was introduced (3) if there is a direct link between the introduction of crack cocaine and an increase decadence in the social and economic life of the American community (4) and why this drug had such a significant influence.
What is crack?
Crack could be known as "the poor man's drug" because it provided an alternative to a more expensive drug, cocaine. The introduction of crack cocaine amounts to a technological innovation in the market for cocaine intoxication. Crack cocaine is a derivative of powered cocaine, made by dissolving cocaine powder in water, adding baking soda, and boiling the mixture until a solid base separates from the solution. This process does not change the chemical composition of the active cocaine alkaloid, but it does change the manner by which it may be ingested. Once converted into crack, the cocaine can be smoked, which allows the cocaine molecules to concentrate in the brain much more rapidly than is possible by taking powdered cocaine intranasally (Stein,1992). Because the euphoric effects of cocaine have more to do with the speed at which the alkaloid concentrates in the brain than with the level of the drug in the body, crack is the more intoxicating form of the drug. This fast delivery to the brain is cause by the large pulmonary area available for diffusion and absorption due to cocaine smoking (Ellwood and Gawin, 1988). Crack cocaine produces feelings of well-being, mental exhilaration, reduced appetite and great physical strength in the short term. The after-effects can include tiredness, depression, panic, anxiety and death. Long term users may believe to have develop tolerance, and therefore, are tempted to increase doses for a more intense effect which can lead to overdose. With continued use of this drug, paranoid psychosis can be seen (Cook and Laub, 1990). Since our course (MCB 165) deals much with the chemical effects of cocaine/crack, there is no need for much explanation on that particular topic.
Crack has become widespread phenomenon because of the user's strong physical dependency to it. Moreover, the price of crack is the same as powdered cocaine when measured on a molecule-for-molecule basis (Charles, 1993). Thus the process of synthesizing crack from powdered cocaine reduces the unit cost of cocaine intoxication, which defines the meaning of a "technological innovation" (Stein, 1992). Hence, we can observe the motivation in the birth of this particular "poor man's drug" in a chemical and economic point of view.
When was crack introduced?
The next question we must answer in order to provide a possible correlation between crack cocaine and inner-city decay is when this drug was introduced. The following research was conducted by the Jay Roffy from the school of public policy at the University of California at Los Angeles. Crack cocaine introduction was dated in three ways; (1) police data, (2) emergency room admissions data, and (3) data from Congressional Testimony. First, in 1991 various police departments (where crack was an epidemic problem) were surveyed about the effect that crack had on their city. The surveys were addressed to the chief of police in each city, and included a question about the date when they had first encountered crack. From this data, the reported introduction dates range from 1983 in Atlanta to 1991 in Milwaukee. The majority of the cities, including Los Angeles and New York, had 1986 (Cork, 1996).
Next, crack introduction dates were inferred from data provided by hospital emergency room admissions that are published by NIDA as part of the Drug Awareness Warning Network. DAWN reports the number of drug-related emergency room admissions in a given metropolitan area by the type of drug involved in the event. In addition, DAWN also reports how the drug is administered among cocaine-related ER events. This is important because a discrete jump in the fraction of cocaine-related ER events attributed to smoked cocaine could be use as evidence that crack has been introduced. Data provided from emergency room admissions range from 1982 in Atlanta to 1987 in Dallas, New Orleans. Like the police data, this data also had a majority of it's date falling in 1986 (Cork, 1996)
For a few of the largest cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, additional information is available from a number of congressional hearings held between 1985 and 1990. Based on the testimony of police chiefs from the respective cities, congressional hearings place introduction date at 1986 for New York, late 1985 for Detroit, 1986 for Dallas and 1988 for Chicago. This information nearly matches the information from the survey of police departments due to the similar sources. Nevertheless, it is reassuring that the information provided in 1991, when crack problem had become endemic in many cities, was the same as that provided to the Congressional committees in the mid- 1980's when the problem was an urgent matter for the surveyed police departments (Cork, 1996)
Why did crack get so popular?
The relative decline of the inner-city is not only the result of crack introduction but could be the reason for it's introduction. It is important to note that the introduction of crack cocaine coincidence with the further widening of the social and economic classes in America's communities. Structural shifts within the economy during this time under Ronald Reagan's reign resulted in the relocation of manufacturing industries to locations outside the central city causing further competition in the work force. Innovations in technology also contribute to a larger cleft in the two opposing economic sectors residing in the central cities. These economic factors weigh heavily in the introduction of crack cocaine by an economic deprived sector in the community- poor, young males.
To determine the link between crack cocaine and community decay, we must understand why this particular drug became so popular in inner-city life. We've already talked about how the introduction of crack helped reduce the unit cost of cocaine intoxication while providing more of a physical dependency. With the emergence of crack, the more stabled organized crime groups that had been responsible for the distribution of heroin and cocaine gave way to independent, low-level crack sellers. Driven by high profits, crack distribution escalated in neighborhoods that experienced social and economic troubles. Crack introduction was based on a need to move up in the economic ladder while operating in a market that freely allows for dealers to sell crack at a minimal cost. Basically, the emergence and widespread distribution of crack was due to economic reasons. Evidently, crack cocaine use and distribution became popular in cities that were in social and economic chaos such as Los Angeles and Atlanta. "As a result of the low-skill levels and minimal initial resource outlay required to sell crack, systemic violence flourished as a growing army of young, enthusiastic inner-city crack sellers attempt to defend their economic investment." (Inciardi, 1994) Once the drug became embedded in the particular communities, the economic environment that was best suited for it's survival caused further social disintegration within that city. An environment that was based on violence and deceit as an avenue for the crack dealers to protect their economic interests. In order for these drug distributors to evade intrusion from police crackdowns and rival into their livelihood, there would have to be an increase in crime, violence, and lawlessness associated with drug-trafficking within these helpless communities. Crack cocaine's addictive properties did not help the growing influx of dealers. As the market demand continue to increase, competition became the principal driving force that allow dealing crack cocaine a profitable business.
Crack influence on crime rate:
One way to gauge urban decay in the records of criminal activities. Since it has been documented in this manuscript that the introduction of crack cocaine in a majority of cities was in the mid 1980s', it would be advantageous to observe the correlation between emergence of crack and crime rates. The number of reported offenses for the crime categories (murder, robbery, aggravated assault) are published by the FBI in it's annual Uniform Crime Reports. It is broken down by central-cities and suburbs. This is beneficial to this study because one can estimate the effect of the introduction of crack on urban crime by comparing changes in central city crime rates to relative changes in suburban crime rates within metropolitan areas. In effect, we use the suburbs in a given area as a control for the central city.
Annual crime rate provided by FBI was based on number of crimes per 100,000 residents within that area. Although there's considerable variation in crime rates by the FBI, central cities are more crime-ridden than the suburbs. For this particular manuscript, it is better to observed the crime rates in central cities before and after the introduction of crack cocaine. For most of the offenses in the crime categories, results seem to suggest that the emergence of crack had a significant influence in the rise of these particular crimes. For example, the effect on murder indicates that crack cocaine caused murder rates to rise by 4.4 per 100,000 population, an amount equal to 18.7 percent (+/- 2.7) of the before-crack murder rate in the central cities. The statistics for robbery (up 27%) and aggravate assault (up ~50%) provide ample evidence for crack cocaine causing crime rates to increase substantially. Although other factors such as decreasing wages during this time period may cause crime rates to increase, the introduction of crack cocaine and it's profound influence on it's respective communities can not be underscore.(Inciardi, 1994)
What is the definition of "decay"?
Although there are multiple ways that this technological innovation of the mid 1980s' have affect the community, the three main consequence discussed in this manuscript are : (1) destruction of a strong nuclear family household (2) driving out middle and working- class Americans from their crack infested communities (3) disintegration of the education system. Crack cocaine infested economically- deprived cities that were, at that time, barely clinging onto social and moral ethics. The drug brought with it a new set of values and beliefs that devalued normal social and economic interactions. This new lifestyle of "easy money" emphasized deception and violence, as oppose to hard work and normal means of earning the buck. Crack, the poor man's drug, gave the destitute public a new attitude that anyone can be a crack dealer and earn money without the hard work.
Crack cocaine's most significant influence in leading to social erosion in urban cities is in the destruction of the nuclear family household. Attacking at the heart of the community (the family), this drug gave young, poor kids new heroes and role models to look up to. Notorious crack dealers were given legendary status on the streets by supplanting fathers as the new authoritative figures. The introduction of crack established a "vertically-controlled selling organizations". In other words, dealers on top of the drug pyramid would look for cheap low-level sellers to meet their increasing demands. Flashing gold watches and driving nice cars, it wasn't too easy for these "new-age businessmen" to induced young and impressionable teenagers to join their new family. The phenomenon occurred at a time when the family household of these communities could least afford it. Due to the widening gap between the rich and the poor sectors, the nuclear family was already on shaky grounds. The lifestyle presented by the introduction of crack cocaine seemed to have further severed the family's relationship, which has yet to be fully recover. . In the 1980s', ghetto communities saw a mass exodus of middle and working-class citizens. This mass migration seem to have occurred at about the same time as the introduction of crack cocaine in these cities. It is still debatable as to whether it was the crack cocaine that led to the migration or vice versa. Which ever the case may be, the emergence of crack did not seem to have help halt the mass exodus of hard working professionals from cities that were depriving of social and economic constants. It was these same citizens that were keeping the community together by reinforcing societal norms and values. They provided their cities with a stable and moral environment which soon were displaced by depravity and violence of the crack age. Joblessness caused by the lack of investment of businessmen into these communities skyrocketed further by the crack cocaine explosion of the mid 1980s'. Armies of crack dealers implanted themselves securely into these societies while driving away investors and hard working citizens.
Lastly the crack cocaine explosion further eradicated the need for public education by providing easier avenues for making money. This technological innovation gave young teens a new reward system based on making easy money. More importantly, it gave them independence. Independence from their parents; independence from employers; independence from responsibility. There seemed to be no need for higher education when crack distribution appears to yield the most profitable margin with less amount of investment. Whether the investment is time or capital, life in the fast lane seems to be the only way to excel in life. Although drug dealing was always popular in these communities, the process of synthesizing crack from expensive, powdered cocaine reduced the unit of cost for cocaine intoxication. This allowed for a larger sector of society ( especially teens ) to ride this new wave of economic opportunity. Unlike other basic institutions within the community, such as church, the educational system was more under attack because young teens provided the necessary fuel for the crack age to exploded.
The purpose of this manuscript was to established that the introduction of crack cocaine led to social, morally, and economic decay of American communities that they infested. First, we traced the birth of crack as a cheap alternative to another popular drug, cocaine. By still maintaining, as well as expediting the euphoric effects of cocaine, crack became an instant economic success. By changing the way it was administered, crack reduced the unit cost for cocaine intoxication while inducing more physical dependency by it's users. Secondly, we tried to pin point the actual time period that it was introduced. This would allow us the ability to observe actual effects of crack. We used data from 3 different sources to determine when crack enter America's communities: (1) police data (2) emergency room admissions data (3) congressional testimony. All 3 of our sources seem to confirmed that the modal introduction year as 1986 (Los Angeles, New York) while ranging from 1982 to 1990, depending on the city. Next, we try to establish that one way to statistically determine urban decay is by looking at the crime rates around the country. Using information from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, crime categories (murder, robbery, and aggravated assault) were analyzed based on crimes per 100,000. Since we have already established a modal introduction date for crack in big metropolitan cities, we can now compared crime rates for pre-crack versus post-crack era. In every category, there were great increase in crime rates. Finally we took a look at the economic and social damage brought on by the emergence of crack cocaine. Three main observations that were discussed in this manuscript was (1) breakdown of the nuclear family (2) the mass exodus of middle class Americans (3) the disintegration of the educational system. Although all three evidence for decay are inter-related, we critically analyzed each individual issue as to why they were such easy prey to the new crack age.
We finally ask the question, "Why did the introduction of crack cocaine have such a destructive hand in inner-city decay?" The emergence of crack cocaine was a phenomenon in American history. Known as the poor man's drug, it appeared at a time in American history that was overwhelmed with social and economic strife. This technological innovation became more of an economic revelation. Catching the eyes of the poor, it opened up new economic opportunities with seemingly limitless rewards. What they didn't see was that it was only a short-term economic solution. The long-term consequences for these American communities far outweighs any positives emerging from the crack age. As a matter of a fact, these urban cities may never recover. http://sulcus.berkeley.edu/mcb/165_0...ripts/_85.html
Last edited by beentheredonethatagain; 18-11-2007 at 22:09.