Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: John M. Caher
Director of Public Information
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8415
(518) 225-5240 (cell)

For release: Wednesday, November 11, 2009
New Law Enforcement Program Targets Drug Dealers
Mt. Vernon, Nassau County, Poughkeepsie, and Rockland County to participate in Drug Market Intervention Program

A new strategy designed to help communities reclaim their streets and neighborhoods from drug dealers was launched Tuesday in Mount Vernon, Nassau County, Poughkeepsie and Rockland County, Denise E. O’Donnell the state’s Deputy Director for Public Safety, announced.

Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said that approximately $367,000 in federal Byrne aid has been committed to promoting “Drug Market Intervention” (DMI) programs in four regions. DMI is a proven anti-drug measure that enlists law enforcement, community members and families of local drug dealers in a strategy aimed at shutting down neighborhood drug markets.

“Drug dealing destroys communities by fostering an environment where violence prospers and legitimate commerce suffers,” said Deputy Secretary O’Donnell, who also serves as commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. “Through the DMI program, we believe we can permanently shut down drug markets by enlisting local residents and local police in a concerted effort to stabilize communities. Nothing is more of an open sore on a community than a drug market, and DMI shuts them down .We are confident this program will succeed in New York State, as it has in communities across the country.”

The DMI model was created by Professor David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.  It was initiated in High Point, N.C. in 2004, and its success there inspired more than 30 jurisdictions nationwide to embrace the strategy. Professor Kennedy and John Jay College are assisting in the implementation of the program in New York State.

Professor Kennedy said DMI is a nine-step process that begins with detailed crime mapping so that authorities can pinpoint open drug markets in their communities and identify all the low level dealers that drive the market.  Standard drug investigations build cases against dealers, including full audio and video documentation.  Dealers with histories of violence are immediately arrested while nonviolent dealers receive a “safe passage” invitation to a community meeting at which they are guaranteed that they will not be immediately arrested. The meeting is attended by community members, law enforcement, social service providers, and often members of the dealer’s family who are concerned about individual’s safety future.

“At the meeting, the low-level dealer is met by an overwhelming number of people who care about the community, but also about them,” Professor Kennedy said. “They learn that the community is insisting that they stop, and that the community wants them to succeed. They hear from social services providers about special measures that are available to them. They hear from family members – their mother, their grandmother – and it has a tremendous impact. They learn that while their behavior is rejected, they are embraced. But they also learn that the gloves are off and if they go back to dealing, they will be vigorously prosecuted on the original case: No new evidence, no new investigation -- nothing. It's directly to jail.”

Melvin “Tony” Perez, special assistant to the commissioner at DCJS and statewide project manager for the DMI initiative, said one of the keys to rebuilding drug-ravaged communities is rebuilding the lives of residents of those neighborhoods who engage in drug dealing.

“DMI will help coordinate services for appropriate individuals who can be safely diverted from the criminal justice system and provided with drug counseling, job counseling, mental health counseling and other services needed to reclaim lives as well as neighborhoods,” said Mr. Perez, a former officer with the New York City and Rochester Police Departments.

The Drug Market Intervention strategy has been utilized successfully in Hempstead, Nassau County, where drug arrests in the most active market in the county have dropped from around 150 a year to two year-to-date in 2009.  Its success there prompted Deputy Secretary O’Donnell to extend the program to other communities with Byrne/Justice Assistant Grants.

Deputy Secretary O’Donnell said funding has been awarded to: the City of Mount Vernon Police Department, $93,500); Nassau County District Attorney, $100,000; City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, $73,060; and the Rockland County District Attorney, $100,000 to employ full time coordinators to implement the program.

The kick-off meeting of the Drug Market Intervention Initiative was held today at John Jay College. The four counties will consult monthly with Professor Kennedy or his staff and DCJS  to develop strategies and coordinate research on the effectiveness of the program.