The Camden County police conducted drug sweep last week, arresting 19 drug dealers and 45 alleged drug buyers.  The Courier Post lists the names and home towns of all who were arrested: “64 arrested in Camden drug sweep,” June 2, 2013.

Fully 80 percent of the buyers were not Camden residents.  In fact, the buyers come from all over the region, including upscale suburbs like Audubon, Cherry Hill, and Vorhees.   While many suburban residents may look down on Camden, they do not seem to realize that Camden bears the burden of supplying drugs to users in their own communities.  The consequences for the young men of Camden who meet the suburban thirst for drugs are dire.   Young men become involved in violent clashes over control of the trade trade, leading to shootings and an astonishing number of murders for such a small community.  Those who survive will usually be arrested and, with a criminal record, will find it hard to ever escape the streets for a job in the mainstream economy. 

The point is not to excuse those who sell drugs for a living, in Camden or elsewhere.  Rather, the point is that Camden is not the sole source of the problem, since every drug transaction has a buyer and a seller.  The drug problem transcends Camden, but Camden bears a disproportionate share of the collateral damage of the drug trade in terms of ruined lives and squandered opportunities.  Suburban jurisdictions need to recognize the complicity of their own communities in contributing to Camden’s problems, and not feel content to wash their hands and look away.