Ben Borgman, Belltown Coffeehouse Owner Fed Up With Drug Dealing, Proposes Idea Straight Out of The Wire

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In one season of the late, great TV show The Wire, a maverick police sergeant establishes an arrest-free, drug-dealing zone in a decrepit section of Baltimore. The idea: Gather all the sleazy types in one place and rid the rest of his precinct of their misbehavior. Well, now a Belltown coffeehouse proprietor named Ben Borgman is proposing the same idea.

Borgman wrote a letter to drug dealers after arriving at Bedlam Coffee, his shop at Second Avenue and Bell Street, around 6:30 a.m. yesterday and finding even more drug activity than usual. "There were maybe six or so drug dealers and just a lot of crack heads," the 45-year-old proprietor tells SW .

"I'd like to propose a location compromise," he wrote in his letter, which he handed out to the dealers outside later in the morning. "You move to a safer place, a place that is free of our cameras, and free of the harassment you're getting from the public. Third and Battery is a perfect location for you."

"It's obviously irresponsible," one Belltown resident told KOMO yesterday. Clearly, this is a resident who has not watched The Wire. On the TV show, which takes its premise from liberal drug laws in Amsterdam, this strategy succeeds brilliantly. Not only is drug dealing contained, but cops in the area--freed from having to spend all their time making penny-ante drug busts--are able to concentrate on bigger crimes.

The only problem of the fictional Baltimore cops who carry out this idea is the downtown brass and their political cowardice, ultimately leading to the closure of so-called "Hamsterdam." But, hey, Seattle's not Baltimore. This is the city where police, by law, consider marijuana busts their lowest priority. Maybe the idea would fly here.

Or maybe not. A patrol cop who stopped by Bedlam Coffee this morning to talk to Borgman mused that a contained drug-dealing zone would simply be "another band-aid on the problem."

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Our biggest question, though, is why Third and Battery? "It's got two parking lots and a bank, and the bank is elevated," Borgman explains, referring to the high-rise that houses Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. Actually, it's got two banks (US Bank is also there), a framing shop, and JKB Architects--not quite the boarded-up terrain that was The Wire's Hamsterdam.

Still, Borgman says that Third and Battery doesn't have the retail presence as does his stretch of Second Avenue. He also points out, in his letter to dealers, that the intersection by the bank has "a 60-foot long wall that is great for resting your tired feet." (See picture above.)

The reaction from one dealer Borgman talked to wasn't so great, however. "It's got no cover," the dealer complained. There's a convenience store near Second and Bell, and the dealer said he could duck in for a soda or candy whenever cops rolled by.

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