Last summer’s biggest drug bust in Rhode Island history, with 104 arrests, was more than just a sting, says the Providence Journal. Tied to the citywide sweep was a unique initiative to clean up the open-air drug dealing in the Lockwood Plaza neighborhood. The initiative, which is being tried in several other cities, hinges on an unusual partnership among the police, the residents in the neighborhood, and a small, select group of drug dealers. Providence is one of six cities trying this unusual initiative, at the recommendation of the National Urban League. It iss called the High Point Initiative, named for the small North Carolina city that used the pilot program on a ghetto nearly three years ago. The police there tried it for the same reason that Providence is testing it now – because nothing else stopped the plague of drug dealing in the poorest neighborhoods.
The idea came from David Kennedy of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Overt, chaotic public drug-dealing is one of the most destructive things a community can have,” he said. Police start by going after the street-level drug dealers and their hierarchy in the worst drug-plagued area, or “beachhead.” The next step is unusual: The police select a few nonviolent offenders who are young and have the potential to be rehabilitated. Instead of arresting them, the police give them a second chance and turn them over to the community groups, such as the Urban League, which provide jobs, education, and counseling. The approach encourages the community to trust the police, Kennedy said, which leads residents to work with the police to prevent more drug dealers from returning. The dealers with a second chance serve as an example to the younger generation.