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Criminologist Who Looks Like Biker Opening Law Enforcement’s Eyes About Drug Dealers

"The Wire" Depicted Life of the Drug DealerBy Suzanne Smalley
NEWSWEEK

The image of a drug dealer driving a Mercedes is a Hollywood favorite, so maybe it’s not surprising that the African-American preacher, speaking on a panel about how to shut down urban drug markets, went for the cliché. It’s hard to get the dealers off the corners and into straight jobs, said the preacher, since selling drugs pays so well. A voice piped up. “This is not true,” said David Kennedy. “They’re scraping by, living at home.” Kennedy offered advice: when confronting dealers who say they’re getting rich, tell them, “I’m calling bulls—.”
Kennedy is a rail-thin white man with weary eyes, a goatee and hair down his back; he resembles country singer Willie Nelson. He has never been a cop, and, as one friend says, he “looks more like a biker than a professor.” He has no Ph.D. or masters in criminology; he studied philosophy as a Swarthmore undergrad. But in the hotel ballroom packed with police and U.S. Justice Department officials, everyone was listening-because Kennedy is the only person who has ever come up with a consistently viable (and cost-effective) strategy for helping the inner city with its chronic blight and shame, the dope dealer on the corner.
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