Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The New York Model
Everyone talks about the New York model but few have any idea what that means. From the mid 19th century in Gangs of New York to the Warriors of the /70's, New York City had a history of being plagued with gang crime. Yet everyone talks about how New York has changed and how safe it is now. This is what people refer to as the New York model.
It didn't happen through safe injection sites or through legalization of crack. Three things happened. 1) They cracked down on the gangs 2) They cracked down on the crack dealers and stopped letting them sell crack in public and 3) They moved Disney on the Deuce.
When I visited New York in the /80's there were no real gangs. Just a handful of small insignificant ones. The police broke up the gangs by making it harder for them to do business when they wore colours. If they saw a gang or individual wearing gang colours, they would take the person aside and search them. If they were found with drugs or weapons, they were arrested.
Wearing gang colours was just cause for a search. Here gang tattoos should be just cause for a search. Gang tattoos are not freedom of expression and freedom of association. Chris Hudson in Australia pointed to his Hells Angels tattoo and said "Don't you know who I am? I'm a Hells Angel." Having and showing that tattoo was an act of intimidation. Being a member of a criminal organization is just cause for them to be periodically searched.
Not every day in the middle of the night but certainly as they go out in public and jeopardize public safety. Random searches of known gang members for drugs or guns is an example of the New York model which was successful in restoring peace in that crime ridden area.
When I was in New York, gangs weren't the problem, the crack epidemic was. That was the first thing they did to address the problem. They stopped letting crack dealers sell crack in public. This sounds simple but takes focused determination to achieve. As soon as police turn the corner the crack dealers come back like rats on garbage.
Knowing that crack dealers get released quickly and that the paper work on the arrests is undaunting, it's easier to drive by and turn a blind eye to it. Following up on a campaign to stop crack from being sold in public at Surrey central requires ongoing attention. Surveillance cameras would help.
Moving Disney on the deuce was shocking.
East 42nd Street was full of crack dealers and smutty porn theatres like Soho in London. Moving Disney in was high risk but it paid off. That's like moving Disney to Main and Hastings in Vancouver. Yet a coordinated effort saw a transformation in the City which the rest of the world refers to as the New York Model. It doesn't come through complacency and safe injection sites. We've tried being enablers and it didn't work. Now let's try being responsible citizens and see how that goes. Let's try the New York model and leave Amsterdam for Amsterdam.
Let's give it up for New York.
That's not where I'm from but it is where I've been.
I support the Ghetto Gospel.