Suburban DuPage County to address record number of heroin deaths

Following a record year for deaths by heroin, DuPage County has plans in motion for 2014:

The call for action in DuPage came months before the county surpassed its year-old record of 38 heroin-related deaths in 2012.Officials say there were 45 confirmed heroin-related deaths in 2013 in DuPage. And depending on the results of toxicology tests, Jorgensen said the final number could climb by one or two.

“If this was gang or gun violence in DuPage County and someone was being killed every eight days, I think the communities would be up in arms,” Wood Dale police Chief Greg Vesta said…

Heroin is more addictive and physically harmful than any other illegal drug, according to Jorgensen, who was a surgeon before becoming coroner.

That’s why, he said, it’s so important for DuPage to have a public education campaign targeted at heroin prevention. One goal of the effort will be to inform families about warning signs and where to find help. The education campaign — called “Be a Hero in DuPage” — will include a website and social media providing timely information, warning signs and resources, officials said.

DuPage County has long been one of the wealthiest counties in the United States. A story like this goes against that image. In a county that prides itself on suburban success, drug use that leads to death is likely viewed as more of an urban problem. Yet, the story for DuPage County and other suburban counties in the decades to come is that they will likely to see more urban concerns including poverty, crime, and more minorities and immigrants moving to the suburbs as they spread within metropolitan regions. It will be interesting to see how DuPage County tackles this issue…

“The Wire” creator defends depiction of Baltimore

In response to comments from the Baltimore Police Commissioner that the television show The Wire is going to harm  the city, creator David Simon defended the show:

Others might reasonably argue, however that it is not sixty hours of The Wire that will require decades for our city to overcome, as the commissioner claims. A more lingering problem might be two decades of bad performance by a police agency more obsessed with statistics than substance, with appeasing political leadership rather than seriously addressing the roots of city violence, with shifting blame rather than taking responsibility.  That is the police department we depicted in The Wire, give or take our depiction of some conscientious officers and supervisors. And that is an accurate depiction of the Baltimore department for much of the last twenty years, from the late 1980s, when cocaine hit and the drug corners blossomed, until recently, when Mr. O’Malley became governor and the pressure to clear those corners without regard to legality and to make crime disappear on paper finally gave way to some normalcy and, perhaps, some police work.  Commissioner Bealefeld, who was present for much of that history, knows it as well as anyone associated with The Wire.
We made things up, true.  We have never claimed otherwise.  But respectfully, with regard to our critique, we have slandered no one.  And to the extent you can stand behind a fictional tale, we stand by ours – and more importantly, our purpose in telling that tale.

It would be interesting to consider whether television shows and movies and other fictional works can have a significant impact on what people think about locations (and even further, whether it influences people’s decisions to move to certain places). The Wire was a critically acclaimed show but one with relatively low rating and even with more widespread DVD availability, it is still not a mainstream show.

There certainly is some link. Depictions of the inner city have impacted decades of suburban residents. I’m reminded of the Japanese businessmen who my father worked with when I was younger who knew two things about Chicago: it was the home of Michael Jordan and it was home to gangsters immortalized in film.

Now whether these depictions should reflect reality or some idealized or stereotyped view is another question. Simon defends The Wire on the grounds that the show was intended to showcase a different set of priorities:

But publicly, let me state that The Wire owes no apologies — at least not for its depiction of those portions of Baltimore where we set our story, for its address of economic and political priorities and urban poverty, for its discussion of the drug war and the damage done from that misguided prohibition, or for its attention to the cover-your-ass institutional dynamic that leads, say, big-city police commissioners to perceive a fictional narrative, rather than actual, complex urban problems as a cause for righteous concern. As citizens using a fictional narrative as a means of arguing different priorities or policies, those who created and worked on The Wire have dissented.

And this is a perspective or story that is rarely discussed in much depth.

I would be curious to hear how Simon would want people to view Baltimore after watching the show. Should they identify with the residents? Should they dislike the institutions? And ultimately, what should or could the viewers do to help change the situation?