Twenty Cited for Work in Fight Against Drugs
WASHINGTON (AP) _ National drug control policy director William J. Bennett is citing 20 people ″on the true front lines″ of the war on drugs for their grassroots efforts, proving that ″It is possible to fight back - even to win.″
″These people are not angels,″ Bennett said in a statement released Monday. ″They are not saints. They are men and women who have seen their communities ravaged by drugs and they have decided to act.
″These Americans have figured out what armchair critics have not. It is possible to fight back - even to win.″
Bennett said he met those cited during his travels to some three dozen cities throughout the country since the drug control strategy he developed was presented to the nation by President Bush on Sept. 5.
The 20, with background from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, are:
-Robert Armstrong, director of the Omaha Housing Authority, who ″implemented non-nonsense eviction policies and went after known pushers″ whom, he said, ″nobody else wanted to touch. Once we got ’em out, the other residents knew we were serious, and they appreciated it.″
-Alvin Brooks, founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime in Kansas City, Mo., also helped start Black Men Together, which is intended to offer role models for young blacks. Members of Black Men Together walk some drug-infested streets, toting bull horns and warning drug dealers to get off the street.
-Jack Candelaria, president of the South San Jose Neighborhood Association in Albuquerque, N.M., who brought members of his group together with police to win establishment of a police substation in the neighborhood. Today, police and residents work closely together, and Police Chief Sam Baca said, ″months will go by when the police don’t receive calls about drug pushing in the neighborhood″ which was once overrun by dealers.
-The Rev. George Clements, pastor of Holy Angels Church and School in Chicago, who led a boycott of stores in Chicago’s South Side selling drug paraphernalia after he found that all of his parishioners had relatives who were either hooked on drugs or had died because of them. Despite death threats, Clements said, ″We, the citizens, have to get out there and let people know that we really mean business. ... There are more of us than there are of them. Their only weapon is fear. They’ve conned us into thinking they’re invincible. They’re not. They’re cowards, and once the community stands up against them, they tuck their tails between their legs and run.″
-Dorothy Davis, organizer of STOP Crime Watch in Dallas, and Assistant Chief of Police Sam Gonzales. Davis started STOP Crime Watch after a 12-year- old girl was killed by drug violence in 1988. The grassroots anti-crime and anti-drug organization has helped city police and other city agencies in Operation CLEAN, Community and Law Enforcement Against Narcotics, an effort to root out drug offenders from targeted residential neighborhoods.
-Edward Johnson, organizer of the Fairlawn Coalition in Washington D.C., which patrols the streets of the tough Anacostia section. Members wear bright orange baseball caps, carry radios, video cameras and binoculars and confront drug dealers and users with stares instead of verbal or physical confrontation. They have driven the drug buyers out, according to coalition founder James Foreman. ″This is one program where police and citizens working together bring people closer to law enforcement and let people see that police are human,″ Johnson said. ″The police know that the people here will give them water or coffee and help them to do their job better.″
-Ray Leary and Tony Hopson, directors of Self Enhancement Inc. in Portland, Ore., a program designed to provide young people with alternatives to gang and drug involvement. ″We want to show children that there is a sense of value to their lives,″ Leary said.
-The Rev. Michael Lewis of Faith House Inc. in Tampa, Fla., one of the first black child placement agencies in that state to deal exclusively with cocaine and AIDS babies. ″We took a crack house and turned it into a faith house,″ said Lewis, where foster parents are recruited and trained.
-The Rev. C. Jay Matthews and the Rev. Tony Minor, who helped begin the ″Wings of Hope″ program in Cleveland, a national church-based anti-drug program that was started earlier this year in Atlanta by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The program establishes drug prevention committees, contacts leaders of public housing units to recommend ″at-risk″ families for adoption, for care and support and for training in parental skills, basic needs and spiritual guidance. Churches are taught community organizing and drug prevention strategies. Matthews and Minor lead a monthly rally and ″pray-in″ on corners where crack cocaine is sold.
-Jeffrey Miller, principal of W.R. Thomas Junior High School in Miami, who implemented an aggressive drug education program and drug policies for the school once labeled ″Cocaine Alley″ by a local newspaper. ″Every student knows we have a tough policy, and they know what the rules are,″ said Miller, whose school has experienced a 50 percent drop in the number of disruptive incidents and no drug-related cases.
-Frank Parks, athletic director of Spingarn High School in Washington D.C., which was certified ″drug-free″ by the U.S. Department of Education last May, just a few years after ″marijuana and PCP were all over the building, and there was a number of drug dealers in here,″ Parks said. Starting with athletes ″because one athlete can influence 25 other kids,″ he enlisted students in his efforts to create a peer counseling group called SAND, Student Activities, Not Drugs.
-Erma Scales, chairman of the Acres Homes War on Drugs Committee in Houston. The community had been overrun with drugs, and Scales said, ″We decided to stop the madness. We overcame in our community.″ The neighbors wrote down license plate numbers of drivers buying drugs, told police of alleged drug dealers, and tore down abandoned buildings that were used as crack houses. Using local business donations, the committee also has created an anti-drug program including education, treatment, neighborhood patrols and youth activities.
-Margaret Toomey, manager of the Homes of Oakridge in Des Moines, Iowa, which a year ago were surrounded by drug dealers. She organized tenants through community get-togethers and meetings with police and civic leaders, and she has evicted about 60 families since 1988 because of drug problems. An ″Up with Hope, Down with Dope″ march attracted more than 1,000 participants, and the residents have created project HOPE, the Homes of Oakridge Prevention Effort, to educate young people about the dangers of drug use and gang behavior. The program also has expanded adult programs focusing on educational, vocational and career choices. Toomey calls on residents to ″Stand up and be counted. Do it cautiously, do it carefully, but do it,″ he urges.
-Ruth Varnado and Queen Hyler, organizers of Milwaukee’s Stop the Violence Movement, who acted after a 9-year-old boy was killed while playing in his back yard. With police cooperation, Milwaukee citizens last July 9 took to the streets to confront the drug dealers and express their outrage. The movement encourages residents to report license plate numbers to police and it has worked to remove drug paraphernalia from local stores. Church visits to raise neighborhood consciousness often trigger a flood of calls to the police.
-Jean Veldwyk and Norm Chamberlain, leaders of the South Seattle Crime Prevention Council in Seattle, Wash., who were shocked when crack cocaine invaded their city several years ago. ″We discovered the community could not simply sit on its hands and expect the police to do everything,″ Veldwyk said. The council helps neighborhoods form their own crime prevention programs, runs a hotline for reports of drug dealing, gang activity and abandoned cars, directs a graffiti cleanup program, conducts community support activities, meets with legislators and works with police to target drug ″hot spots.″