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The MPD established a drug free zone for the duration of July in Brightwood Park. A heavy MPD presence followed the red fliers (re: lots of white guys in flak jackets making more trouble for the neighborhood than the dealers they replaced), and now the dealers have gone back to work in front of the corner take-out at 5th and Kennedy.

Evidence that things in the neighborhood are back to normal and that the drug free zone was a waste of (non-recycled?) paper: I walked off the bus yesterday and into a heated public dispute over the price of joints. The seller wanted $15 each, the buyer only wanted to pay $10. There was some yelling, some good dealer/bad dealer, some bravado-fueled hustling, but then they settled on $12 a joint, and everybody walked away with what he wanted. And, I might add, no one gave a shit that I saw it all go down.

I realized after watching yesterday’s exchange that the atmosphere of danger—at least in Brightwood Park—is as much a  product of the MPD’s presence as it is the viral hopelessness that they established generations ago with their crackdowns. In the few months that my girlfriend and I have lived in the neighborhood, we’ve only been scared a handful of times. The first was when red fliers showed up—overnight it seemed—on every light pole in the neighborhood. The second time was when we watched eight cops in five cars bust a teenager for selling pot outside a convenience store.

In other words, we didn’t feel threatened until the cops showed up and told us to feel threatened.

The idea that cops are the problem contradicts theories that a heavy police presence discourages crime, but truth be told, I’ve almost always felt safer in the company of drug dealers than cops. Supra-citizenship lends itself to abuse, but drug dealers—at least the small-timers in our neighborhood—are live-and-let-live capitalists who have a stake in maintaining some sort of neighborhood equilibrium; while cops have every reason to stir shit up.