Swiss cities are looking for the right recipe against street dealing


In Switzerland, the recent collapse in the drug market and the difficulty of cities coping with this congestion has revived an old debate about fighting the street bargain, which periodically returns in political news.

This content was published on Jun 29, 2022 – 10:45

Cecile Doering, Joel Poisard and Vincent Cherbelod, RTS

In the late 1980s, drugs exploded in plain sight. The infamous Platzspitz, in Zurich, is a symbol of what would be called “open drug scenes”.

Geneva would not know such a ghetto, but the sale takes place in various public places. The situation was such that the authorities responded and took measures that were still unprecedented at that time in the world: this would be the beginning of the orderly distribution of heroin and the opening of injection sites.

>> Testimony of Evelyn J, whose daily life for thirty years combined with taking medical heroin:

Four Pillars Policy

These solutions are the result of the so-called four-pillar policy, adopted by the union in the 1990s and still in force today: prevention, suppression, treatment and survival.

“In the 1990s, when we had ideological debates in many countries, Switzerland made very practical decisions that saved thousands of people,” Swiss Addiction Deputy Director Frank Zobel said in an interview with Swiss Radio and Television (RTS). “With prescription heroin, for example, we’ve pulled their best customers off the drug market.”

Between prevention and repression

But the merchants never really disappear: they change places, and their number fluctuates until the next inhabitants and merchants arrive, like the bustle of some restaurants installed on the edge of the square. Ripon, in Lausanne. . Then the police intervene by punching or increasing their daily presence.

At first, Geneva and Lausanne draw a positive budget from their actions. “The presence of agents on the ground and the very strong act of lobbying had their effects,” welcomed Pierre Maude in 2016, then the State Counsellor at the head of the Security Department in Geneva.

Two years later, his counterpart in Lausanne, Pierre-Antoine Hildebrand, mentioned a split-preventive apparatus on the one hand with a “permanent presence” and repressive on the other, with “larger arrests than before”.

“You’ll never make this go away.”

“I’ve been able to fend off the problem a little bit, but other, more pressing problems replace it, but the nuances with Frank Zobel. You have profitable traffic, with demand. You’ll never be able to get rid of that. But maybe you can find arrangements in which the situation is bearable. and protection of the population.

Today, it is the crack appearance in Geneva that is worrying. Residents and merchants are again ringing alarm bells and wanting the police to act.

But it is easier said than done: “When we say we can eliminate dealings on the streets by being daily in these sensitive places, I think it is a hoax. Geneva State Councilor Mauro Boggia warned, in an interview with RTS.

Today, as yesterday, a difficult note is necessary: ​​the ancient struggle against drugs is an eternal beginning.

>> LSandro Katachin, Professor of Sociology at the University of Geneva who specializes in drug policy, analyzes:

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