City adopts a plan that worked in Huntington
IN February 2012, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin and Charleston Police Chief Brent Webster brought a new approach to fighting drugs on the West Side called Drug Market Intervention.
The program targeted hard-core violent criminals on the West Side, while offering a one-time-only second chance to lower level drug dealers.
Similar programs worked in Huntington and other places. Last week, five drug offenders received forgiveness at an intervention held at the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, the Daily Mail's Ashley B. Craig reported. Many people pleaded with the offenders to turn their lives around.
There won't be a third chance. The police still have enough evidence to lock them away for a considerable amount of time.
"Please, don't call our bluff," Chief Webster said.
Such a program cannot be standalone. The community must be involved.
In Huntington, local and federal officials targeted the four-by-eight-block Fairfield neighborhood, where 60 percent of that town's drug business was conducted. Not only were hoods given a second chance, but slums were cleared. In January 2012, Goodwin spelled out the results:
* Drug and violent crime fell by a third.
* The city demolished 29 structures.
* Builders constructed 14 new homes.
* People established four community gardens.
* Property values tripled.
* A poll showed 85 percent of residents report felt safer in the day.
* 50 percent felt safer at night.
The war on drugs can be won, but victory requires many tactics on many levels. That includes Just Say No-style campaigns to reduce demand, clearing slums where drugs are dealt, treatment for drug abusers, hard time for violent offenders and drug dealers, and even second chances for some.
The cooperation between the local police and the federal prosecutor is good and praiseworthy. Even better, though, is the cooperation between the community and the police.
Let us hope the five criminals who received second chances use that second chance wisely.