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Eastside residents join in fight against drugs

First steps to forming citizen patrols
Warwick Jones

It looks like it's going to happen. At a meeting last night, Eastside residents and others gathered to discuss moves to combat drug dealing. Responding to a plea by the organizers, some 20 Black African "men" stepped forward to join patrols to help police the neighborhood. Some hurdles still remain, but with help likely from the City, County and State, they should easily be overcome. We expect that the "men" will be on the street within a few weeks. They will operate under the banner CPAD - Citizens Patrol Against Drugs.

Over 100 attendees
There were well over 100 attendees at last night's meeting. The meeting was announced last week at a press conference given by County Council members Darby and Pryor, and City Council member Mitchell. The Eastside is part of the districts of Council members Darby and Mitchell and is adjacent to that of Council member Pryor. Attendees of the meeting last night gathered, not only to discuss proposals to form patrols and the creation of jobs for those on the streets, but to listen to spokespersons from some of the City and County agencies. Council member Darby chaired the meeting and was assisted by Council member Pryor.

To recapitulate, the organizers of last night's meeting looked for "100 African-American men" to help patrol the streets of the Eastside. As well, they were looking for the creation of 300 to 500 job opportunities for those involved in drug dealing. The patrol volunteers would be formed into groups and by walking the streets in the evening, seek to engage those involved in dealing. The prospects of a mainstream job would be the "carrot" to get the dealers off the streets. The patrols would also attempt to frighten off potential customers. License plate numbers of customers would be supplied to the police who could take appropriate action - either arrests if there were evidence, or searches if there were grounds for suspicion. The organizers were looking to the City and County governments as well as commercial entities to create job opportunities. Recognizing that some of the street youth were lacking in qualifications that made them easily employable, they looked also for job training opportunities.

Senator Ford volunteers for patrols
Of the invited speakers, Senator Ford made one of the strongest impressions. Columbia would support the effort and he promised finance. As importantly, he volunteered his time and asked to be put down for 10 hours a week to serve in a patrol. The Eastside was in his district. He noted that killings in Charleston and North Charleston well exceeds the combined total of other major cities in the State. He called on the community to stand up to crime, to stand up to criticism, and for every Christian minister to be challenged in supporting this effort.

Support from School Board and Police
Nancy Cook, Chair of the County School Board indicated her support for the effort and specifically for vocational training. In a short discussion privately after the meeting, she said she knew of nobody on the Board who would oppose vocational trading. She is also indicated support for introducing classes dealing with drugs and their problems. Representatives from the City Police Department and the County Sheriff's Department also spoke. Mr. Lucas of the Sheriff's Department offered all the assistance necessary and promised to lock up convicted drug dealers. But he did note that the programs exist in the County jail to ensure that first-time offenders did not become repeat offenders. There were compulsory education classes for first-time offenders.

Other invited speakers last night included Representative Whipper, Council members Gilliard, Gallant, Mitchell and Lewis. Mayor Riley and Council Chairman Stavrinakis were invited but were unable to attend.

Advice from the trenches
The speeches of Mr. Odell Price, and Mr. Dennis Muhammad also made an impression. Mr. Price played a leading role in an effort on Liberty Hill some 12 years or so ago, and on which the present initiative is based. The Liberty Hill effort was targeted on the weakest link - the user of drugs. Usually these people have a full-time job, and they can't wait for trial. They are more easily scared off by the efforts of the patrols than the drug dealers. By talking to drug dealers, taking number plates of suspected customers, and supplying information to the police, Liberty Hill was rid of its drug dealers within six months. He warned that members of the patrol should not be confrontational. And although patrolling may seem dangerous, no injuries were sustained by anybody during these patrols.

Mr. Muhammad, a member of the Nation of Islam, is presently participating in patrols on the Eastside. He opined that the problem is not the people on the streets, the people are the results of the problem. They have lost their spirit because of neglect or abandonment by the school system or family. The Nation of Islam engages youth, offers counseling, and help to gain employment. With troops already in the trenches, the experience of the Nation of Islam should prove invaluable to the present effort.

Some other comments from participants:

• Chuck? - Many kids are into rap and hip-hop and have a strong desire to make their own recordings. To finance the hire of a studio and recording equipment, they resort to drug dealing. If some way could be found to finance recordings for these kids, the incidence of drug dealing will be reduced.
• Maurice Washington - thought that it would be a good idea to form a 501c (3) to incorporate the effort. Such an entity will be needed if grant money is to be accepted. He also noted that grant money was out there for the financing the initiative.
• Councilmember Gallant - as the chaplain assisting the City Police, he noted the increase in members of gangs previously confined to the West Coast. Because of harsher penalties for repeat crimes in California, many gang members were coming east. Fighting drugs is not going to get easier.
• Councilmember Gilliard - a lot of "mom-and-pop" stores were no longer that. The main items sold by many were drugs and liquor. The stores need to be targeted in any drug cleanup effort.
• Max? - Representing Trident Tech, Noted the large growth of industry in the County. Most "shop" classes were on main campus. He was trying to get pre employment classes for Campus and was very interested in the potential for Burke High School. Privately before the meeting he told us of the high demand for welders and the many unfilled positions.
• Mr. Orlando Selkirk - Pastors Inc, a non profit has available space in a building it owns on the Eastside.

Patrols to begin shortly
The number of volunteers was less than that hoped by the organizers but is sufficient to form patrols. It may still be a week or so before patrols actually begin. Equipment is needed such as distinguishing clothing and cell phones. As importantly, the logistics of the operations have to be worked out and communication procedures with the City police determined. In the meantime, the organizers will look for more volunteers and will begin a campaign to enlist the support of ministers of churches on the Eastside. They will also send letters to churches elsewhere in the City and to Neighborhood Associations. These letters will be ignored with peril. For if the effort on the Eastside is successful, the drug dealers may well try to take their business to other parts of the City. Other neighborhoods may need to look to the Eastside for guidance for their own efforts to eliminate dealing.

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