- The Washington Times - Monday, August 4, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

The famed Greek storyteller Aesop once related a tale of a group of frogs that lived in a pond and could have been quite happy, except that they wanted a king. They prayed to the god Zeus repeatedly, and Zeus, hoping to teach them a lesson, sent down a stork that immediately began devouring the frogs.

The plight of the residents of Trinidad, a crime-plagued neighborhood in Washington, exemplifies the wisdom contained in Aesop´s fable. Unable to deal with the reign of terror imposed by drug dealers and addicts within their own comm unity, they desperately reached out for a solution. The solution they got, an aggressive police presence that disrupts daily life, was probably not what they had hoped for.

The crime in Trinidad has been so bad in recent years that some pundits have resorted to calling it “Baghdad on The Potomac.” With more than 20 murders already this year, the neighborhood is surpassing its own disreputable expectations. However, the enemy faced by the neighborhood is neither an invading army, nor a band of marauding nomads. The enemy was, quite frankly, invited in by the residents themselves. Drug dealers who find a ready market for their poisons; parasitic liquor stores and blighted buildings suffering from years of neglect; children, whose parents are locked up and checked out on drugs, roam the streets without guidance or protection. All these factors have weakened the neighborhood to the point where it cannot police itself, and thus finds itself in a compromising position.

Responding to desperation over the spike in violent crime, the District government set up a strictly-enforced police checkpoint to monitor car traffic. Industrial-strength floodlights shine into dark corners where furtive fiends furrow, while law abiding porch-sitters find themselves blinded in the lenses´ harsh gaze. The abrasive rotor wash of police helicopters overhead disturbs even the soundest slumber. Driving through the neighborhood, one gets the immediate impression that it is occupied territory. Understandably, inconveniences caused by these measures have engendered resentment among some residents, even as the crime level has sharply declined as a result.

Moreover, civil-liberties groups have threatened to sue the police department for its tactics, arguing that they unfairly infringe upon residents´ constitutional rights. The question that begs asking is: Where were these pansies when the residents´ right to life was being violated by these street-corner terrorists? And where are these civil-liberties groups when it comes to defending the free-speech rights of residents who are afraid to report crimes because of a ridiculous “anti-snitching” culture promoted by dumb rappers? Maybe these people need to spend a night or two in a police cruiser or an ambulance picking up the pieces before they jump to conclusions.

Many may remember back to the ‘90s when then-New York had experienced for more than 20 years and ushering in a new era in economic growth in the city.

The fact of the matter is that the Trinidad police checkpoints are but a stopgap measure. They will not cure the underlying sickness plaguing the community, but they will help curb the bleeding while the community figures out what to do next. One small suggestion that might go a long way in solving the problem is for all of the ex-cons, drug addicts and vagrants who lurk outside the liquor stores get off the streets and into a job or an addiction counseling program. These adults, many of them parents or relatives of the terrorist youth, need to start setting a better example. Instead of littering the streets with beer cans, cigarette butts, crack vials, and dirty needles, they need to organize a community cleanup drive to patch up the blighted structures and remove the piles of trash that everyone walks past and pretends to ignore.

In times of crisis people cry out for a strong leader to come in and straighten things out — but then they complain when a few feathers get ruffled, or a couple of heads get bashed in the process. Unlike Aesop´s frogs, communities suffering from internal crime such as Trinidad should look within for leadership and solutions to their problems. And they should be careful what they pray for — because they just might get it.

XM Satellite Power 169.

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