Urban ethnographers have been doing some interesting research on the drug trade in the last ten years or so. They pay informants twenty dollars or so for their time, and interview them on various aspects of drug sales and the drug dealing life. Supposedly, they spot trends well in advance of police and public policy makers. Heroin use and availability, for instance, has been on the rise in last couple years. According to several New York drug dealers, profit margins are much higher for the ten dollar bags of heroin than crack and speed. Sales of crack have even been declining.

They also pointed out that stiffening the penalites for gun possession (it is now an automatic felony in the NY area) means that street corner drug dealers no longer carry them because the fines and jail time aren't worth the extra security. Because of this, ethnographers have already identified the robbery of drug dealers as a new "growth area" for criminals.

I heard about this on NPR, and the sound of the informants' voices was horrifying-they were all so calm as they described holding people at gun point and stealing $85,000 in cash. I'm a white-bread suburbanite, and these disembodied voices describing violence and drugs as a way of life left me with a cold knot in the pit of my stomach.

I just keep thinking about my kids. How long until we figure out a way to fix this?