Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 2005
Source: Berkshire Eagle, The (Pittsfield, MA)
Copyright: 2005 New England Newspapers, Inc.
Author: Jeff Herman
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Anyone who reads The Eagle must be very disturbed by the frequency of 
violent crime in Pittsfield. Though only a fraction of us live in 
Pittsfield, we are all  undeniably affected by what happens there. 
Countless communities across America  have enacted ways to separate the 
"civilized" areas from the "barbarians."  Resignation, indifference and 
neglect become the routine reactions to unpleasant events on the "other 
side of the wall." That's not the way we live here, nor  should we want it 
to be, but it's what will happen if we don't stop current  trends.

Whatever the underlying causes, crime can be prevented through smart law 
enforcement choices. Which is why we must take one more look at the 
so-called Taconic parking lot situation, and see what it might have to tell 
us. Recent trial transcripts reveal a sophisticated, long-lasting and 
probably expensive operation to catch teenagers who were primarily selling 
small doses of marijuana  in Great Barrington. In and of itself, the 
project succeeded. The Taconic parking lot is a safer and more pleasant 
place, and 17 individuals will be compelled, one way or another, to face 
unpleasant consequences for their unwise choices. Only the most 
risk-adverse teenagers will be as brazen, at least for a  little while.

But the above scenario is a train that has run off its track, and has taken 
on a whole new meaning. District Attorney David Capeless' refusal to remove 
the  two-year jail sentence from the table is forcing numerous jury trials 
down the  system's throat. The recent mistrial, perhaps due to juror 
nullification, indicates that an unknown number of trials are in store for 
a long time to come  if nobody cries "uncle." Most of the defendants have 
never been engaged in other  criminal activities, nor is there any evidence 
that they would be. It's good to apprehend and convict criminals, but it's 
even better to pre-empt the crimes. Are the local authorities seeking to 
turn back the alarming tide in Pittsfield with the same level of dogged 
determination they showed in the Taconic parking lot? If yes, then why do 
some of us think we need to pose the question?

As a community, it's incumbent upon us to monitor how our elected and 
appointed officials are using the limited resources we put at their 
disposal. In that light, are the pending marijuana jury trials the best way 
for the DA and the courts to be consumed, while we read about murder and 
mayhem in Pittsfield?

- ---
MAP posted-by: Elizabeth Wehrman