International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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D. Rosenblum et al. / International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 543–555 547 concentrated and highly flexible but efficient structure of hierar- chically controlled open-air drug markets has emerged out of these de-industrialized ruins. Some sales spots are more stable than oth- ers but they are all frequently forced to close down for shorter or longer periods of time depending upon the vagaries of law enforce- ment, sources of supply and fierce competition between rivals. Sales spots regularly shift around on the same block or spill over onto adjacent blocks. They sometimes change ownership despite remaining at the same site and new corners frequently pop up on neighboring blocks – sometimes crashing and burning rapidly and sometimes emerging as stable competitive sites. Despite their individual fragility and mobility, these open-air markets always remain in the same Puerto Rican neighborhood catchment area. This vibrant, spatially enclaved specialized market niche is staffed at the entry-level and in the lower tiers of man- agement primarily by second-generation Puerto Rican youth and new Puerto Rican immigrants. It serves primarily white customers from nearby poor working-class neighborhoods as well as some older local Latino residents, some older African-Americans, and a significant number of white suburbanites from the surrounding tri- state region (Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Most of the younger sellers eschew heroin and cocaine use, instead preferring cannabis and diverted prescription pills (primarily opioids and ben- zodiazepines). Their customers, who arrive predominantly on foot or by public transportation, have a dependable, constantly updated, informal information network that allows them quickly to discern the variations in heroin quality between sales spots. Fierce com- petition between corners and a direct link to wholesale suppliers of Colombian-sourced heroin have given rise to a market where it is always easy to find highly pure and cheap heroin (Karandinos, Hart, Montero Castrillo, & Bourgois, in press). Our ethnographic and observational data from Philadelphia revealed to us a particular form of ethnic and class segmenta- tion of the heroin market originating in the early 1990s. This restructuring of the heroin market coincided with the influx of Colombian-sourced heroin into the US market. US-orchestrated interdiction efforts paradoxically led to the diversification of Colombian-sourced illicit drugs to include heroin in addition to cannabis and cocaine (Ciccarone, 2009). Trade routes also diver- sified but most of the eastern US's cocaine and, after 1990, heroin supply continued to pass through the Caribbean. Our ethnographic data suggest that much of the wholesale trade at the inner city level is controlled by Dominican nationals (often undocumented) as well as some second generation street-level dealers who are recruited from segregated and economically dis- advantaged Puerto Rican neighborhoods. A 19-year-old half Puerto Rican, half Dominican dealer who grew up with his Puerto Rican mother on the block where FM and GK were living and who was try- ing to scale the ladder of the heroin market hierarchy by "renting" a drug corner, pointed out: The connects [wholesale suppliers] are always Dominican. The people I've worked with have always been Dominican. You see them driving around the neighborhood all the time; they drive around in their fucked up Toyotas with tinted windows, always scared as shit. They always schizzing [anxious and hyper-vigilant]. If you look at them they look at you like this [throwing his head back and squinting suspiciously]. The dramatically ethnically segmented labor force and enclaved market requires a large supply of structurally vulnerable local resi- dents to staff it as well as a large surrounding pool of working-class populations because the turnover rates of both workers and cus- tomers are extremely rapid as most participants in this illegal drug economy cycle through chronic incarceration. Urban decline and chronic underemployment have spurred the growth of this informal economy. The entire block on which GK and FM resided was literally in the shadow of an enormous abandoned curtain and upholstery fabric factory. From the roof of their rowhome they could see another full square block vacant lot where a yarn mill formerly stood, along with another eleven abandoned factories in the distance. Philadelphia was particularly hard-hit by the rust-belt decline and our field site was among the most affected. Between 1955 and 1975, precisely when Puerto Ricans began migrating in large num- bers to Philadelphia, the city lost over 75% of its manufacturing jobs (Adams, 1991). North Philadelphia's formerly white popula- tion, predominantly of Irish, German, Polish, and Italian descent, had progressively little reason to remain living near the abandoned factory cores and began exiting the city in massive numbers tur- ning into a veritable white-flight panic by the 1980s. Between 1950 and 2005, Philadelphia lost 610,000 residents, roughly 30% of its population, even as Puerto Ricans in-migrated. The city's deindus- trialization has resulted in population loss every single year from 1951 to 2009. Philadelphia's overall poverty rate of 25.6% in 2010 makes it the poorest of all US cities with populations exceeding one million people. That poverty is unequally distributed across eth- nicities: the rate for Latinos is 39.4%, African-Americans 30.4%, and whites 17.7%. 7 According to the Census Bureau's American Com- munity Survey 2005–2009, three of the census tracts surrounding our field site had poverty rates over 54%; five of the eight poo- rest census tracts in the city were in the Puerto Rican section of North Philadelphia (Karandinos et al., in press). The recent pro- longed economic recession in Puerto Rico (2006–2012) continues to send new immigrants to the neighborhood who are desperate for Philadelphia's combination of low rents, informal low-wage jobs and minimal public assistance that is inaccessible in Puerto Rico – and has been disappearing in the US (Duany, 2011; Schram & Silverman, 2012). Ethnographic evidence 1.2: racialized antagonisms, profiling, and the comparative advantage of Puerto Rican ethnic segregation in the Philadelphia heroin market Another important factor that channels unemployed Puerto Ricans into the drug economy is the Puerto Rican disruption of classic US black/white antagonisms. Philadelphia is one of six large US cities that suffer from what demographers call "hypersegrega- tion" between whites and blacks (Wilkes & Iceland, 2004). Maps showing the distribution of the Hispanic, African-American, and white population in Philadelphia (Figs. 1–3) illustrate this high level of segregation. As of 2012, Philadelphia's population as a whole was 42% black, 37% white, and 13% Latino (9% Puerto Rican) (Pew, 2013). The census tract in which the fieldwork apartment was located was 82% Latino, most of whom are Puerto Rican. The area with the highest concentration of Puerto Rican residents in Philadelphia is wedged between large, impoverished African- American and dwindling working- and lower-middle-class white neighborhoods. Philadelphia's virulent history of antagonistic black/white relations limits the ability of white addicts to frequent African- American neighborhoods where their skin color marks them for police raids and generates hostility from many local residents. Whites are less immediately anomalous in the rainbow of Puerto Rican phenotypical diversity. Substance-dependent whites are able to circulate in the Latino neighborhood with relative ease. Many local Puerto Rican residents tolerate these visible outsiders because of the social and economic integration of drug dealing into their 7 American Community Survey 2010, 3-year estimate figures.

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