When NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton considers the heroin flooding our region and the seriously organized methods of distributing it, he sees heartbreak, but also hope. So far, Bratton says, heroin trafficking hasn't yielded the deadly violence associated with the sale of other illegal drugs, because it can be delivered to drug users as easily as pizza.
When you're working in a place as complex as modern New York City, every solution can beget another problem.
"The unintended consequence of the crackdown on legitimate dispensing of prescription drugs was the creation of this heroin demand," Bratton said Monday in a meeting with the amNewYork editorial board.
He applauds NYC's renewed prosperity, but sees blocks where single-room-occupancy residences are being transformed into luxury high-rises, making affordable housing harder to find. Reducing the prison population addresses a real problem, but also adds to one. Homelessness is rising and emptying out jail cells is part of the cause, as was New York's emptying of mental health facilities decades ago.
To Bratton, the city is in a golden age: Violent crime is at a low, prosperity abounds, the population is up and tourism is booming. But there are always challenges.
The terrorism battle is changing. The Islamic State group is now more of a threat than al-Qaida. Tomorrow, who knows? Bratton is responsible to keep up with the changing landscape.
Beat the crack epidemic and along come opiate pills -- then heroin and K2 marijuana. We will always have homeless and mentally ill people. Poor people, too. The conflict between police being kind to us but tough enough to protect us never ends, but the NYPD is updating "use of force" rules. "The department is seriously engaged in trying to reduce use of force to the absolute minimum," Bratton said.
Making our society the best it can be is a complex and constantly changing challenge. But Bratton makes a great point that isn't highlighted often enough. Much of that challenge is going quite well.