The following is an article published in the Press and Sun Bulletin on 8-04-05. A local news paper in Binghamton, New York. The subject is an ongoing issue between Michael and local law enforcement and local politicians. This article was prompted by a cake serving photo opportunity by the Mayor and a Councilmen shown on the local 6:oo pm news. This comment not in article
Lockdowns punish landlords and home owners when the politicians and police fail to provide drug free neighborhoods. When it gets so bad that only drug users are attracted to a neighborhood the only way to look good is to shift the blame. Lockdowns are also a great way to get more grants for economic renewal to fund another feel good anti drug program
Imagine this scenario: You are relaxing in your living room when a stranger enters your home, walks past you into your kitchen, takes a piece of cake from your refrigerator and leaves. You would call 911. The police would respond, you would give a statement and a description then swear out a complaint. You would do anything to help have this thief caught and arrested. After all, a crime has been committed. Something has been taken from you.
Drug activity in our community is this thief. You can't see it taking food from your kitchen, but it is doing just that. It does not stop there. Lock downs are not the answer. Lock downs create great photo opportunities for politicians. Some even bring cake and ice cream to neighborhoods in celebration of the event. Unfortunately, property values will not increase in that neighborhood. They will undoubtedly decline elsewhere as well because drug dealers relocate rather than face arrest while continuing to ply their trade in new neighborhoods. Behind every lock down is a mortgage that will most likely go into foreclosure and a building that will most likely come off the tax rolls. Worse yet, the drug dealers are not deterred by lock downs. They just move to the next neighborhood. The next neighborhood is usually not far away. Some problem tenants move to the other side of town while some move a couple houses away.
Lock downs only affect the physical piece of property and have no effect on return visits or continued activity of the prior undesirable occupants. The lock down simply places new homeowners, landlords and neighborhoods in jeopardy while creating an extremely minor inconvenience for the drug dealers. The move usually benefits the dealers who know law enforcement will have to reestablish surveillance. The dealers enjoy a fresh start in a new market place while continuing to conduct business in the old marketplace. The cake is gone and the politicians have influenced potential future voters with a new false sense of security.
Moving drug dealers to another neighborhood is no more effective than moving a malignant tumor to another part of the body. It will resurface. Usually after the next election or city council vote. The cake is so good we usually forget about the convenient political timing of these events.Drug dealers and users move several times a year. Users are regularly evicted for nonpayment of rent, excessive visitor traffic and repeat police visits. Dealers are aware of law enforcements dilemma with red tape. Many local dealers and users intentionally and successfully elude prosecution by moving between adjoining cities, towns and villages. These moves can be across town or across the street. Each move causes law enforcement to start over by first tracking the subjects then establishing a new investigation with the agency in the new jurisdiction. Before these two agencies regroup another move is usually in progress. A third agency must now be notified and brought up to speed. This is an ongoing obstacle in establishing consistent information and evidence.
The drug industry costs millions in health care driving up insurance premiums. Drugs are responsible for tax generated millions being spent on criminal courts, prosecutors, investigators, public defenders, jails, probation officers, social workers, law guardians, foster care, and programs for repeat offenders. Where do these dollars come from? That's right - you and your taxes. And don't forget Family Court. Countless children are put through the system having been abused, neglected, exposed and influenced by parents, siblings, friends or newly relocated neighbors with drug related issues.
Do we wait for the politicians to come to our neighborhood for a photo op with cake? Do we wait and wonder if our cake will be taken from our kitchens by the relocated neighbor? Or do we demand realistic evaluations and solutions to the problems. This is a far more challenging task - but of course we could always continue to eat cake.
The Mayors rebutal to the above article ended with Mr Bonventre offered no suggestions or solutions.
The local newspaper declined to print the following response.
Mayor Bucci's response to my Aug 4th article on the lock downs missed the point. The space restrictions did not allow in depth suggestions and solutions. I will give you an example or two and an invitation to seek out more.
First the mayor missed the intent of my article. The facts and observations on how a lock down effects drug dealers, users, neighborhoods and property values etc. were based on my 23 years of personal and professional involvement behind the scenes of this issue. The criticism was of the mayor and councilman's cake serving celebration. When revenue is lost because a landlord either can't or won't comply with the law, it is unfortunate. To suggest any loss to this community is reason to celebrate is also unfortunate and inappropriate for a community leader in my opinion. When the mayor is gone I won't be serving cake. I will regret his inability or refusal to seek out suggestions and solutions that may have helped this community.
My first suggestion will ensure many solutions. When a citizen with my credentials and well known and publicized involvement and successes in crime and drug prevention makes several dozen calls and writes letters with attached law enforcement acknowledgements, simply return the calls. Have the common courtesy to hear them before saying no.
Long before Mayor Bucci came on the scene Mayor Crabb and every level of law enforcement in the Southern Tier listened to my suggestions before deciding to say no. Many including the Binghamton FBI said they were not interested in jeopardizing 25 year long term investigations. My solution in 1982 was to seek out and enlist the support of the Fort Lauderdale State Attorney, Broward County Sheriff and the Broward and Dade County FBI who were very interested in ending Organized Crime and drug related problems stemming from Broome County. Mayor Bucci was well aware coming into office that I initiated the Cherokee Sting Operation that ultimately led to the Guinarri- Mosco Organized Crime trials of 1989 and 1990. My involvement as a paid volunteer undercover operative /consultant also put me directly in the know about many high profile drug and criminal investigations that ran into and throughout the Bucci administration.
Mayor Bucci may deny my attempts to reach out to him with suggestions and solutions. The question is why the mayor did not reach out to me. The Press and Sun Bulletin and other media have interviewed me extensively over the years. The mayor can't deny my public criticism of not only him but law enforcement policy overall. Especially concerning the frustrated landlord and tenants of 78 Conklin Avenue. The city threatened to lockdown that address while offering no help. The landlord and I moved into the building and started cleaning it out. The 911 calls from that address alone toped 200 during the time I managed the drug infested building. The police always responded to the 911 calls but that is about all they did other than occasionally remind us, we were upsetting established investigations and risked prosecution for obstruction of justice. 78 Conklin Avenue was a media Mecca for more than a year of drug related problems including the shooting death of Shadu Mitchell and yet no response to my well covered media request for constructive help from the mayor. One of my suggestions at that time was to offer landlords drug free tenants that were on long waiting list with City of Binghamton and HUD housing. We never received a response.
The mayor made an interesting comment about lockdowns encouraging landlords not to rent to tenants who are obviously involved in criminal activity. I would pay the mayor to teach me how to profile such tenants. I personally would have rented to anyone of the State Police Officers arrested in the evidence tampering scandal or the Sheriffs who were caught with illegal drugs in their systems and on their personal property.
I know you the reader would be shocked to see the respectable professionals who come to my office for rehab follow-up drug testing associated with criminal activity. You would be shocked to know who is failing random drug test on a daily basis.
How does one know if a potential tenant is a long time criminal who may be under the protection of a long-term investigation? I would love to share my opinions about the counter productive effects of long-term investigations.
The real message is for the citizens and the current candidates running for office today. Anything Mayor Bucci does concerning my opinions at this point would be disingenuous and too late. I have been here since 1982 with many suggestions and solutions. They are too numerous to cover in a single article. One candidate, has already decided to ignore my phone calls and e-mails including an intervention from a councilman. I am anxious to share my suggestions and solutions during the next administration. I am willing to speak to any one privately, professionally or through the media.
My personal experiences and opinions suggest the following: Solutions and politics are like oil and water.
Politics: A fine art of photo ops, appearance of concern, long term investigations and voter manipulation.
Solutions: Childishly simple, clear cut common sense actions that threaten political job security and endless funding for photo ops, long term investigations and voter manipulation.
I would like to close by thanking the Press and Sun Bulletin for many years of interviews.