Letters for the Week of October 23 

Readers sound off on violent crime in Oakland, environmental destruction and the drug war, and realtors rebranding Oakland.

"Greenwashing the War on Drugs," Feature, 10/9

Violence Arises From the Drug War

Over the decades of the drug war we have seen countless headlines reporting "drug-related" crimes of violence and drug-induced frenzy. What is not reported, and perhaps never even considered, is that the madness and violence being reported almost always arises not from a person too high to realize what they are doing, but rather from implementing the mechanisms of the drug war.

Dean Becker, Houston, Texas

Stop Environmental Destruction

I have long been an advocate of legalization of all drugs, not just marijuana, for reasons of civil liberties. You are quite correct that prohibition leads to all of the problems that you described, and many more, including imprisoning people who should not be imprisoned. However, the federal government is not legalizing pot anytime soon, regardless of what the majority of people want. Too many rich and powerful people make too much money from pot being illegal, and until we get a far more representative government, from one dollar one vote to one person one vote, and proportional representation so that people are not afraid of "wasting" their votes by voting for people whose policies they actually support, pot will remain illegal.  So, we have to deal with reality as it is while trying to change it to what it should be.

The reality is that (mainly) Mexican gangs have been invading our national forests and other "undeveloped" (a better term would be "undestroyed") lands for ten to twenty years to grow pot, as evidenced by the two people identified in your article. While I would far prefer that pot were grown organically and sold and consumed legally, in our current situation of immoral illegalization the only way to stop this hideous destruction of our forests is by military/police intervention. Unfortunately, the people who run the military and police are far more concerned with making and maintaining imperialist wars for resources (mainly oil, now some gas, and soon to be water) and squelching dissent than they are protecting our environment, so we get no response from them.

I couldn't care less whether anyone, including Mexicans, grows pot in our national forests, but no one should be allowed to cut down trees or kill other plants, suck water out of ecosystems, or poison the earth and its inhabitants to do so. If we're not going to legalize pot, we should at least provide whatever military and police resources are necessary to stop the environmental destruction described in your article.

And by the way, all of these pot grows use diesel-powered generators that leak diesel fuel into the ground and watersheds, so the problem is even worse than you described.               

Jeff Hoffman, Berkeley

"Reality Check: Violent Crime is Down in Oakland," Seven Days, 10/9

Potentially Lethal Robberies

While I do acknowledge that crime rates might be down overall in Oakland, that fact does not allay my fears for my personal safety. My lower Rockridge neighborhood gets at least one armed robbery per day, sometimes more. Having a gun pointed in your face is not the same as having your smartphone grabbed when you're not paying attention, or having your house burglarized when you're not home. Robberies at gunpoint are potentially lethal. My neighbor was pistol-whipped when she wouldn't give up her purse easily to thugs who followed her home from BART. My husband was held up at gunpoint right across from our house and he missed the casual carpool robbery by a matter of seconds. I used to think that the only people getting held up were those stupid enough to walk down the street with devices and headphones in full view. But that is no longer true. Robbers now point a gun at anyone walking alone, or even in groups, because the odds they are carrying smartphones are very high.

Some people advise leaving your smartphone at home when you go out on foot. But for those of us who moved to this area because it is so walkable (at least until recently) and who are car-free by choice for environmental reasons, leaving our devices at home is not a workable option. And it doesn't even solve the main problem. I'm not worried about my "smartphone and other electronics being stolen." I'm worried about having a gun pointed at my head and possibly being harmed physically. Sure, I think it's important for us to know the average crime rates in the city, but I would appreciate it if the tone of these articles (and this is not the first) did not trivialize the justified fears of people who live in areas where robberies at gunpoint are actually more likely to occur.

Beth Terry, Oakland

Public Perception Needs Balancing

Thanks for giving us information on the recent Chamber of Commerce poll, which helps us view it with skepticism. Knowing that the Chamber of Commerce, which often has a conservative agenda, sponsored the poll, I was skeptical when I read about the poll at first, and now that I know that the group of respondents did not represent a cross-section of Oakland residents age-wise and racially, I feel disinclined to take the poll seriously. Furthermore, residents' perceptions of criminal activity, as much as they should concern us, should be balanced by law enforcement's corrections of any public misperceptions of criminal activity. Unfortunately, our news media (the Express excepted) tend to fall down on the latter, crucial part of the story.

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