Newsweek takes a mean-streets tour with us

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Newsweek’s Alexander Nazaryan recounts his tour of the Badlands with us last month. An excerpt of his report in the March 12 issue of the magazine:

I drove through the Badlands with Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman, two journalists for the Philadelphia Daily News who shared a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and are the authors of Busted: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love. The book is based on a newspaper series, “Tainted Justice,” that revealed such an astounding degree of corruption among Philadelphia’s drug cops that you would not quite believe it in a Martin Scorsese movie. But your belief, or lack thereof, is irrelevant, because this story is true.

It was the depths of February when Laker and Ruderman took me into the Badlands. No amount of snow could turn this into a Currier and Ives scene, but winter hid what could be hidden, driving all manner of urban ills indoors. National Geographic Channel recently called these streets “one of the largest open-air drug markets in the eastern United States.” Legions of young men lingered on street corners, doing nothing while obviously doing something. A car pulled into a narrow street and someone dashed toward an opened window with heroin or crack. The drug trade was the only living thing here amidst the dead factories and empty lots where waste peeked through snow like the buds of early spring.

Busted is a very good book about very bad people, a great read about great injustice. I would love to say that it is a story of redemption, but honesty interdicts. The crooked narcotic cops whom Laker and Ruderman exposed have not been stripped of their badges (yet), though several have been assigned to desk duty. The owners of the convenience stores these cops raided have received no restitution. The women whom one of these cops routinely sexually assaulted during house raids remain victims unavenged, though at least no longer cowering in helpless silence. And the Badlands are as bad as they’ve ever been.

Click on the image above or on the following link to read all of Nazaryan’s story, The Streets of Killadelphia.

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