Any street cop can tell you that standing up to crack cocaine dealers or their customers is risky business. Yet that’s exactly what a group of brave, committed and unarmed men intend to do--again--in the vicinity of their mid-city Los Angeles church.
Members of the First African Methodist Episcopal Church were pelted with rocks and threatened with drive-by shootings the first time they took a stand in front of two suspected rock houses in October, 1989. But they relented only after the drug trade fell off and the dealers moved on. A second successful campaign that ended in December drove away the prostitutes who worked near the church.
The drug problem has been an ongoing one near FAME and, in response to requests from church members, the church’s men’s society will broaden their campaign. Beginning in March, the men will march, patrol and videotape drug deals every weekend and on some weekdays.
To enlist more help, their minister, the Rev. Cecil L. Murray, is recruiting men from 25 mostly black churches to take similar stands. Block by block, they will build on the success of the Brotherhood Crusade, a philanthropic organization that launched similar patrols in a tough section of South-Central Los Angeles nearly two years ago.
The men are willing to face danger, according to their leader Mark Whitlock, because they are tired of gangs, crime, kids getting killed--and of being afraid. The volunteers surely won’t stop every drug deal, but they can make residents of a distressed neighborhood feel safer by beginning to restore a sense of order.
Crack cocaine has taken a terrible toll in many urban neighborhoods. There are few time-tested solutions to break the addictions, curtail the related violence and ease the problems that make illegal drugs attractive. But here are a few good men who could start to make a difference.