Police took 16 alleged drug dealers to a Raleigh, N.C., community center. They would be presented with the evidence against them and given a choice: Go straight or go to jail. That choice began their journey to extract themselves from the life they had lived for years, says the Raleigh News & Observer. Police have been frustrated for years by street-level drug markets, which diminish neighborhoods and lower confidence in law enforcement. Mass sweeps are only temporary fixes. Drug users drift back to old locations and continue to make dealing their livelihood. It’s a grim cycle for the neighborhood and for the desperate figures who work the streets.
Based on a program in High Point, N.C., police found a way to break the cycle. The Raleigh Police Department, equipped with statistics and testimonials from residents and law enforcement officials in High Point, set out to emulate what had been a success for another city. The 16 people chosen for the diversion program were just hoping to stay out of jail — and to build some semblance of a normal life, says the newspaper in the first of a two-part series.