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special case that focuses on the poverty-stricken neighborhood of Allerton Avenue. The paper highlights the issue of drug-trafficking and shows how some citizen-driven programs helped in decreasing this problem.
Curfew at nine: Case analysis
Drug trafficking is a very common issue in most poverty-ridden neighborhoods in the United States. The reason why youth in these areas seek refuge in delusional world of drugs is because they lack proper education and there is indeed no incentive for them to get respectable grades or degrees. For years they have seen their parents working hard to make both ends meet and despite repeated government promises, these people failed to get even the very basic amenities such as clean water and spacious apartments. In these conditions, it is only natural that youth tries to escape the reality and seeks refuge in drugs. But drug-use has never been an isolated issue; it gives rise to all kinds of crimes such as street-fights and homicides. In Zimmerman playground area, same problems are being encountered by the poor minority groups and most efforts to curtail the problem of drug trafficking have failed to produce any positive results. Studying the case of this neighborhood, we notice that most of the problems are similar in nature to the ones encountered by other poverty-stricken areas. Crime rate is increasing rapidly along with drug-use and trafficking. The biggest problem is that drug-curtailing efforts have not been able to make a serious dent in this anti-social activity and Zimmerman playground continues to be infested with drug-traffickers. Law enforcement agencies adopted and implemented some ineffective strategies such as patrolling which never really got any results. This is because drug-dealers would put their activities on the hold whenever a police officer came in sight. The problem was being tackled by CPOP officers before it turned into a major issue; too big to be managed by one or two policemen alone.
Analyzing the case, we notice that citizens are more capable of tackling their neighborhood problems than the law enforcement agencies. This is because community members have access to information, which is selfishly guarded by others in connection with drug-dealing activities. We need to understand that since residents of a particular neighborhood are generally more concerned about its well being than others and thus they can play a more influential role in bringing down the crime rate. This was one idea, which first reached the Zimmerman area because of Sergeant Thomas Ford who had 20-year experience in the field of anti-narcotics. He said, "Because this [Allerton] is a stable community, a lot of that is taken care of and people care a lot more in this community and they are more verbal about it, so the community itself tends to be their own policemen."
These intelligent comments make it clear that in poverty-stricken areas where communities have spent their entire lives, citizens can play a dominant role in eliminating drug-related problems. This is because they know more about the people in the neighborhood and are familiar with their histories. They can thus provide better information and also help the law enforcement agencies in understanding the psyche of those who live there.
Thus such policies help in achieving better and more lasting results than the ones obtained by the efforts of law enforcement agencies alone. We need to make it clear here however that while the problems of this kind are found in all poor neighborhood, not all of them can be solved with the participation of communities. This is because not all poor areas have communities residing there for decades. Thus citizens can play an influential role only in a stable community where people are closely connected with one another and are seriously interested in eradicating anti-social elements.
It has also been noticed that in Allerton Avenue, many minority groups are residing and thus it is important to involve members of all these communities in action plans proposed for crime elimination. This is because often times, even passive communities can thwart any action taken by the law enforcement agencies because they have not been consulted. For this reason, when the NIDC formed Allerton Anti-Crime committee (AAC) involving different community members, it was decided that all minority groups would be consulted and if possible at least one member would be included in the Task Force.
It is critical to bear in mind that minority groups may not always want to join a particular action program but still their approval is vital as it makes them feel important and involved.
One of the most common problems encountered by the policemen involved in anti-narcotics actions is that they fail to gather enough information from the community members. This problem can be easily removed if the community is made to feel like an integral part of the action plan. This was exactly what NIDC did and thus was able to get solid information in connection with people involved in drug-dealing activities.
Secondly, involving all ethnic groups signals that action plan is not biased and thus doesn't target any particular race. For example, in these areas, people from several different minority groups co-exist and often times one racial group may appear to be more actively involved in anti-social activities than others. In this situation, it is extremely important to involve those members of the group who truly want to eradicate such problems from the neighborhood. This helps in making members understand that drug dealing is not a racial issue and thus an action committee doesn't seek to target any particular ethnic community.
People in Zimmerman Park area were not exactly afraid of drug-dealers yet they did not know what could possible be done to discourage these activities on a large scale and with collective action. Usually in such areas, people fear retaliation when they raise a voice against anti-social elements. To get rid of this fear, Allerton Anti-crime committee decided that it would be better to take some collective action, which would involve a high percentage of residents. This is because it is usually impossible to attack large groups and thus participating members need not fear retaliation. For this reason a Unity Day was celebrated in the Zimmerman Park that attracted a huge crowd. This gave a signal to drug-dealers that they could no longer use this area for their evil activities. Secondly, it showed that most people in Allerton wanted to eradicate these problems and thus wouldn't support illegal activities at any cost.
Such measures are helpful in discouraging drug-related crimes and also play a positive role in pushing anti-social elements away from a particular area; in this case the Zimmerman Park. We need to understand that in this particular Bronx community, Zimmerman Park was being used as drug haven and therefore it was important to concentrate on cleansing this park. Unity Day was thus celebrated at this location to indicate that the site had been recognized as a drug haven and thus had become a major target of the anti-crime committee.
CURFEW AT NINE:
Since Zimmerman Park was being used for most illegal activities, the authorities decided to impose a 9:00 P.M. curfew, which prohibited people from entering the area after this time. It was done to disperse the drug-related activities. Some people also proposed removal of park benches, as most drug-dealers would congregate behind them. Dispersing of any illegal activity helps in lessening its power and influence. This strategy was therefore adopted in the case of Allerton Avenue where Zimmerman Park was the main place of congregation for drug-dealers.
Recruiting the right community members for the task force may often become a major problem, as people do not want to become part of an active campaign. Therefore the more discreet and low profile a campaign is, the better are the chances of its success. People join action committees when they are certain others would not be able to find out. This is because oft-times news of such an action committee may leak out which alerts the drug-dealers and they stay on the lookout for those who support such committees. For this reason NIDC decided to recruit only those members in Allerton Anti-crime committee who had previously worked with NIDC in various capacities. NIDC and its consultants decided not to engage in any high profile campaign. And instead of recruiting members through distribution of flyers and posters, they personally contacted potential candidates.
SOCIAL ACTIVITIES AND AWARENESS PROGRAMS
Apart from these measures, some other social policies were formulated because it was noticed that youth would engage in anti-social activities due to a serious dearth of positive social engagements. For this reason Allerton Anti-crime committee members decided to formulate policies which focused on creating more awareness among the community regarding drug issue. This was done with the help of educational programs and recreational engagements such as basketball tournaments and dance contests. It was noticed that when people had something else to keep them busy, they normally stayed away from illegal…[continue]
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