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Case study: 9 steps to clean up a crime-ridden neighborhood

Certain neighborhoods in High Point, NC, were known for years as toxic to the community until these nine steps caused a dramatic turnaround

The Problem: Toxic Neighborhoods
Certain neighborhoods in High Point, N.C., were known for years as drug and prostitution markets that were toxic to the community. Despite being the target of numerous sweeps and undercover operations, the crimes persisted – and the community began to lose faith in police. Street dealers were selling drugs one dose at a time and in direct competition with others, which kept them armed and on edge. Apathy from the community was viewed as approval.

The Solution: Strategic Intervention
David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control, put forward that eliminating the drug market would eliminate the problem. He recommended shifting the focus from dealers themselves onto the infrastructure of the crimes.

The High Point Model for Drug Market Intervention is a product of that theory, and outlines nine steps to follow to reduce drug market-related crimes. After implementing the strategy, High Point police saw the following results:

Sustained 57 percent decrease in violent crime
Sustained 25 percent decrease in drug-related crimes
20 percent drop in crime from 2003 to 2006

Operational Steps
A training program developed by the Bureau of Justice Assistance prescribes police first arrest and remove the highest-level offenders, then implement the strategy with other, lower-level offenders, who are given a second chance.

Police, reigning in support from the community, conduct a face-to-face meeting to directly address the problem with the criminals. Then, several strategies are employed post call-in to maintain the progress.

Step 1: Crime Mapping
Include 911 calls, field contacts, serious crimes, drug-related crimes, neighborhoods, streets and census blocks in a combined density map

A density map shows the hotspots for drug crime in the area.

Step 2: Survey
Survey police officers, probation officers, narcotics detectives and community members to ID street dealers
o Identify locations as well as persons
o Create a master list of dealers and locations

Step 3: Incident Review
Conduct a complete incident review of all documented contacts with dealers
All reports, contacts with police, link analysis of social network
Refine the list of dealers
  o Is the dealer still active?
  o Still in this area?
  o Street level or mid-level?
  o Pending charges?
  o History of violence?

Step 4: Undercover Operations
Each location and dealer is investigated
Drug houses, street corners and businesses are photographed
Undercover purchases made from dealers
  o Controlled buys with CI or Undercover officer
Each buy is videotaped with audio
The investigation requires only a judge’s signature to make the arrest

Step 5: Mobilize Community Commitment
City council members, mayor and city manager are briefed
Hold a series of public meetings in the targeted neighborhood
Strategy is shared fully with the community: “Is this something you will support?”

Step 6: Contact Offender’s Family
Small groups of officers, community members and clergy visit the immediate family members of the dealers
  o Explain goals, invite family to participate
  o Join in asking offender to quit dealing
  o Family encouraged to attend the call-in
Invitation letter from the Chief
  o You are in trouble but there is a one-time offer of help
  o “This is not a trick, you will not be arrested tonight”

Step 7: Call-in/Notification
Face-to-face communication with dealers
Strong community voice
  o “You’re ours, you’re doing wrong, you have to stop and we’ll help”
  o “We are against what you do but we are for you”
Law enforcement delivers a two pronged message:
  o Drug dealing and violence will no longer be tolerated
  o Offenders are hereby put on notice “you could be arrested now, you will be arrested if we know you are dealing”
Through a resource coordinator they are offered help

Organizations involved in the call-in
The High Point Community Against Violence: The HPCAV has grown into a 501(3)(c) non-profit organization made up of community members, clergy, service agencies, non-profits, private, governmental and educational agencies.

Business leaders
City Council
Caring Services
Guilford County Health Department
West End Ministries
Parks & Recreation
Community Development & Housing
University of NC at Greensboro
Guilford County Schools
Employment Security Commission
Public Defenders
High Point University
United Way

Violent Crime Task Force (VCTF): The VCTF is a partnership between the federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Probation & Parole, District Attorney and the United States Attorney.

Step 8: Enforcement
Officers and community are careful to watch for the first signs of drug dealing
Immediate investigation of drug complaints
  o Additional officers assigned to the area for the first few weeks
Informants revisit confirmed drug locations
Any verified complaint involving a notified dealer results in the warrant being signed and their arrest
The District Attorney assigned one prosecutor for these cases

Step 9: Follow Up
Follow up contact is made with the offenders to see if they are getting the help requested
Community members keep in contact with notified offenders
  o Mentors are assigned
Any arrest or success story communicated to the community through newsletters/flyers
Frequent community meetings held
  o Beat officers attend community watches
Property owners notified of nuisance abatement

Analysis and Impact: Measuring the Success
Quantitative Results
Violent crime changes in target neighborhood (West end)
Sustained 57 percent decrease in violent crime

Sustained 25 percent decrease in drug-related crimes

Two year violent crime change: 20 percent drop in crime from 2003 to 2006

Qualitative Results
Markets closed overnight!
Calls for service increased 5 percent, but the type of calls shifted
Bible school attendance increased at English Road Baptist Church
A 911 caller converted from reluctant witness
Defendant complained police shut down his drug neighborhood
No homicides, rapes or gun assaults in target area
Residents didn’t relocate – they stayed but stopped offending
Sustained for more than six years, replicated in four other neighborhoods
   o Daniel Brooks, Southside, East Central, Washington Drive

Post-Initiative: Maintaining the Shutdown
Communication with community
Contact with the notified offenders
Peer-to-peer information sharing among officers
Immediate response to threats
Monitor physical conditions of neighborhood

The High Point Drug Market Initative at http://www.highpointnc.gov/police
Chief Marty Sumner at marty.sumner@highpointnc.gov

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