How city neighborhoods can fight drug terrorism
Chip Johnson has an important piece in this morning's SF Chronicle ("Street Justice for Slain Drug Dealer," Jan. 30, 2006). Johnson tells of the shooting death of drug dealer Purnell Brewer in Oakland. But the real story is how the people who live in the Fruitvale neighborhood on 22nd Avenue, an area Johnson calls "Oakland's largest cocaine market," began to help police fight against the drug dealers' dominance in their neighborhood:
In mid-October, after meeting with fed-up neighborhood residents, Oakland police Lt. Kevin Wiley ordered a crackdown on the crack cocaine dealers. The cops made it clear that they wouldn't do the job alone and would need help from the community. The neighborhood responded in a way that surprised the officers. Residents started chronicling the activities of about a dozen street-level dealers the police had identified as "priority targets." Brewer, the No. 2 man in his organization, was on that list, and residents decided to do something about him.
Neighborhood residents began recording drug transactions they witnessed, even taking pictures of Brewer and other dealers, leading to more than 30 arrests in the area, including Brewer. Brewer was ready to plea-bargain to lesser charges, but, after receiving 47 letters from people in the neighborhood about him, the judge rejected the deal. Before Brewer could go to trial, he was gunned down, apparently by rival dealers. (The question is, Why would he even be out on bail with his long record of offenses?)
Johnson wraps up: "His[Brewer's] killing may well go unsolved, but most people don't care. They're thankful that the street did what the police, the courts and the residents of East Oakland could not. It got rid of Purnell Brewer."
Not an ideal outcome, since ultimately the people of the neighborhood are going to want all the other Brewers out of the area, which will take continued cooperation between residents and the police.
SF neighborhoods in Hunters Point and the Western Addition should take note: They too can reject the thug ethic on "snitching" and defend their neighborhoods against drug terrorism.