Fighting Neighborhood Crime, Nonviolently

| 7/22/2013 3:02:55 PM


This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence.  

Break-ins, muggings and worse were definitely up in the neighborhood. Neighbors were justifiably worried, and they talked about two responses. One was to leave for the suburbs, where people were safer (and whiter). The other was to demand that the city send more cops.

We were new to the neighborhood, the 30 of us having just moved in to form an intentional community of activists. We didn’t like either of the two “solutions” the neighbors talked about.

Moving to the suburbs played into the hands of unscrupulous real-estate types who wanted to “turn over the neighborhood” — turn it from largely white to black, from largely homeowners to absentee landlords who would carve up the large houses into tiny apartments and collect rents while allowing the properties to disintegrate into slumhood. That was the history of a lot of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods. In 1971 it was West Philly’s turn.

Demanding more police presence played into the hands of Police Commissioner Frank Rizzo, the populist proto-fascist who had made his reputation by raiding coffeehouses while crusading against “hippies.” Rizzo won national attention with the photo of him attending a fancy-dress occasion with his billy club in his cummerbund. He’d lined up a group of Black Panthers on the street, stripped them naked after raiding their office and called it a strip search. Lately he’d been demanding more police officers to command. Did we really want our neighborhood to be Rizzo’s ally?

Our group felt the pressure as much as anybody — collective houses broken into, members assaulted on the street. Two of us, Lillian Willoughby and Ross Flanagan, formed a collective to develop a nonviolent alternative that would somehow respond to the racism inherent in the situation and the momentum toward “white flight” that was starting to build.

7/27/2013 10:28:52 AM

You know what WOULD work? More equality; income equality, education equality, opportunity equality. When some are excluded from the benefits of the community, they have no reason to support the community. End the extreme financial inequality, institute salary caps for all, including CEOs of multinational companies, end multinational companies for that matter. Let's follow an example that works, Sweden. Much more equality, much less crime, much more general happiness.

Bernardo Stevens
7/23/2013 3:54:54 PM

So the air horns and stuff did NOT work. The woman was still murdered. All this happened decades ago and Philadelphia is still a dangerous city.

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