By Cristina Kumka
RUTLAND — A man who spent years studying open-air drug markets in places where mothers put their babies to bed in bathtubs out of fear of flying bullets said Rutland has “much promise” in its fight against drugs.
David Kennedy, the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at one of the top criminal justice colleges in the country (John Jay College in New York City) spoke Monday night at the Paramount Theatre, introduced by Rutland hospital CEO Tom Huebner and Rutland Police Chief James Baker, among a large seated crowd of police, active community volunteers, residents and Project VISION members.
Kennedy said Rutland is the first place to ask him how his crime-fighting design — called drug market intervention or DMI — can be used inside the city’s discreet drug market, where drug dealers latch onto locals and use cell phones to deal in an effort to stay under the radar, avoiding open-air and street drug sales.
Kennedy’s DMI program, accepted and approved by the federal government as a proven crime-fighting plan, is typically used in overt drug markets where gang-related violent crimes have pervaded neighborhoods and ruined quality of life.
“This is the first time in 30 years that someone has said, this is how our local market functions and this is how business gets done in this place,” Kennedy said.
“Your city has figured out a logic that shows much promise… This is the first genuinely innovative, promising idea anyone has had and that’s an enormous big deal.”
Kennedy called Rutland a regional hub for drug selling and buying, not unlike small cities across the country.
What is different is the fact that Rutland has taken significant actions with a heroin task force and police who have figured out who to target: mostly Brooklyn-based, low-level dealers who connect to Rutlanders.
And city police are now trying to figure out how to use DMI ideas in that type of drug market, something Kennedy said he has never heard of before.
DMI strategies used in Rutland have made recent headlines as local drug users have been threatened with arrest if they don’t enter into rehab, or if they get caught helping drug dealers flourish, again.
And a detail described by Rutland Sgt. Matt Prouty — knocking on doors with probation officers and putting suspected dealers on notice — provides a stern warning before an arrest is made.
Kennedy said putting suspects on notice is a proven method of community policing and drug deterrence. It’s also something that doesn’t increase fear among the innocent or create animosity toward police.
The strategy is being used in Detroit, MI, and Newark, NJ, and “regularly reduces homicide,” according to Kennedy.
David M. Kennedy is the director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. He directed the Boston Gun Project, whose “Operation Ceasefire” intervention was responsible for a more than 60 per cent reduction in youth homicide victimization and won the Ford Foundation Innovations in Government award; the Herman Goldstein International Award for Problem-Oriented Policing, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Webber Seavey Award. He developed the High Point drug market intervention strategy, which also won an Innovations in Government Award. He helped design and field the Justice Department’s Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative, the Treasury Department’s Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative, and the Bureau of Justice Assistance’s Drug Market Intervention Program. He is the co-chair of the National Network for Safe Communities, an alliance of more than 50 jurisdictions dedicated to reducing crime, reducing incarceration, and addressing the racial conflict associated with traditional crime policy. He is the author of Deterrence and Crime Prevention: Reconsidering the Prospect of Sanction, co-author of Beyond 911: A New Era for Policing, and a wide range of articles on gang violence, drug markets, domestic violence, firearms trafficking, deterrence theory, and other public safety issues.
His latest book, Don’t Shoot, One Man, a Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America was published by Bloomsbury in September 2011.