Monday, July 05, 2004
Greetings from Zurich. What does a vice policy researcher do upon arriving in Zurich for the first time? No, not what you are thinking -- such an individual heads to the Platzspitz. That`s a park next to the main railway terminal, and in the early 1990s, it was the site of an amazing experiment: Needle Park. In Needle Park, small-scale sales of drugs, even "hard drugs" such as heroin, were tolerated. Users could shoot up without fear of the police in the Platzspitz, and health facilities were provided to promote safe use and prevent accidental overdose. Though with respect to some health measures and even some overall crime outcomes, Platzspitz could be said to have been a success, it was a political failure, and was shut down. One of the problems was that it was an unique environment, so it attracted users not just from Zurich but from all over Switzerland and beyond. Platzspitz, then, in part serves as a reminder that what constitutes a desirable vice policy very much depends upon the vice policies that other jurisdictions pursue.
Another lesson that I draw from today`s visit is that when setting up an open air safe shooting gallery, you might not want to use some of the best real estate in your city.