query: neighborhood anti-drug organizing

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Sat Jan 11 22:12:01 CST 2003

[ed:  Mary continues the discussion following up on her original 
message and Pedro's response.]

From: <nwbccc at igc.org>

Just to note: I did not mean to discourage anti-crime organizing 
having done it myself for over 15 yrs and now directing an 
organization that has closed hundreds of drug spots - I agree that 
this is an issue that can not be ignored & one that is in fact 
essential - Mary Dailey  

> MrPedro2124 at aol.com
> I take issue with Mary Daley's recommendations about caution 
> when doing anti-crime organizing. This is one of the fundamental 
> issues facing poor communities in urban areas (and to a lesser 
> extent, rural areas populated by non white groups). If as organizers 
> and activists we look the other way in matters that relate to the well 
> being (both physical and psychological) of our communities - then 
> we are providing a disservice to that community. When we faced 
> the similar situation in the late '80s and early '90s in Philadelphia's 
> Kensington neighborhood - we too had ample debate about those 
> particular issues - But what resolved the "dilemma" for us was the 
> reality that people in this neighborhood were not going to engage in 
> battle against the city government for better housing, jobs, cleaner 
> streets, better health care and better schools UNLESS the 
> conditions in which they could organize improved. Let me explain: 
> if people cannot go to a meeting at night because some punks are 
> shooting guns in the corner and selling dope, then it doesn't matter 
> what brilliant agenda and strategy you have to solve the 
> community's ills - it just wont move. Of course you need to have a 
> strategy to combat the root causes that allows crime to flourish in 
> such communities, but part of the tactics to use in such 
> communities is to rid the neighborhood of the unwanted elements 
> that prevent (and are in fact accomplices and NOT victims) decent 
> people from organizing and confronting the other real enemies. My 
> suggestion: go ahead and develop a plan that includes the POLICE 
> as partner or not, but that forces them to do their job and be 
> accountable to you - clean up the neighborhood and then or 
> concurrently present the other demands. It is the only way my 
> friends. Here in Kensington we were able to do just that and after 
> 12 yrs, the community is pretty much free of open air drug markets, 
> there is less crime and much visible physical improvement. Before 
> we started this, it used to take 2 or 3 hours before the police 
> responded to a 911 call from this neighborhood - now it is down to 
> about 3 to 4 minutes - I think that is real progress.  
> Pedro Rodriguez
> Action Alliance of Senior Citizens, Executive Director
> United Neighbors Against Drugs, Secretary
> > ***************************************
> > 
> > From: <nwbccc at igc.org>
> > 
> > 1) It helps to be able to determine what the police could be doing 
> > that they are not & make those specific demands - sometimes its 
> > intervention with property owners, sometimes its visible patrol, 
> > sometimes its targeted arrests.  
> > 
> > 2) I would caution against organizing around crime in a way that 
> > only demands police response.  First it is highly unlikely to secure 
> > an ideal police response no matter how specific your demands.  
> > Second locations that are good for one crime enterprise are known 
> > market places & when you put one crime enterprise out of business 
> > - others will try to take their place.  This requires that you change 
> > the understanding of the marketplace & which can take a long time 
> > and a sustained effort - frequently it is necessary to change the 
> > ownership & or mortgage patterns of particular properties and 
> > usually it is important to demand other city services (sanitation, 
> > lighting, parks, housing code enforcement) be delievered to the 
> > location as well to create a different environment - one that is less 
> > friendly to crime.  
> > 
> > 3) If possible it is a good idea to tie the anti-crime organizing to 
> > other neighborhood improvements - more after school programs at 
> > the area schools, a campaign to improve school environment at the 
> > local high school, a campaign for new training of rookie cops to 
> > decrease  racial profiling, etc. - things that demonstrate that your 
> > organization has a broader political perspective - that you just don't 
> > want to lock people up.   This will help attract the right members to 
> > your anti-crime organizing as well.  
> > 
> > 4) Be mindful about the members that are attracted to anti-crime 
> > organizing. This work usually attracts a few cop want-a-bes  who 
> > will not be effective members for the organization in other arenas 
> > and sometimes undercut the group's ability to take a critical view of 
> > the work of the police department. Focus on the members with a 
> > clear self interest - their block is dangerous - they worry about their 
> > children getting caught up in the drug trade - they are leaders in a 
> > local church that both wants a safer neighborhood and wants to end 
> > violence that is hurting neighborhood families etc - or people who 
> > already have an enlightened self-interest - who are thinking about 
> > how to capture the interest of people who are mad and upset about 
> > crime and harness it into broader campaigns for economic justice 
> > and neighborhood improvement.  
> > 
> > 5) Resources:  Tim Vance from the NYC Department of Housing 
> > Preservation and Development put together a great little manual 
> > several years ago - it may have some relevance to your situation - 
> > it helps you think about the drug trade as a business and helps you 
> > think about how to effect both the supply and demand side of the 
> > specific business operation.  Also the National Training & 
> > Information Center has a manual that they put together out of the 
> > experience of organizations that were demanding more effective 
> > policing from urban (many small urban) police departments.   
> > 
> > Feel free to contact me at NWBCCC at igc.org for more suggestions 
> > - Mary Dailey 
> > 

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