Friday, April 04, 2008

Multiple Arrests Take Drugs, Gangs Off Streets

Three news helicopters hovered overhead for an hour or so Thursday, making us fearfully wonder what was going on and where. Was there trouble at a school? A shooting? Turns out it was arrests of people involved in drug and gang activity. News12 had a brief clip and reporters who had to traipse to Elizabeth for a press conference duly reported for the print media.

The full list of arrestees in the operation that goes back to January is on the New Jersey State Police web page. Click here. Those of us on the ground who worried what the helicopters portended can now be glad that drugs, weapons, pugnacious young men and one alligator are now in the hands of authorities.

By coincidence, I found a book at the Plainfield Public Library this week that I had been looking for ever since I read “Freakonomics.” It is titled “Gang Leader for a Day,” by sociologist Sudhir Venkatesh and it gives a keen insight into the reigning society at Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, a high-rise housing project where a gang leader dealt not only drugs but violence on those who did not obey his rule. His subjects included prostitutes, squatters, look-outs, underground entrepreneurs selling just about everything out of apartments, lesser gang ranks, resident organizers and hustlers of every stripe.

It was so fascinating and had such a ring of truth that I decided to read it all over again.

The only thing that broke up this illicit and intricate society was the physical destruction of the buildings, something that high officials once called for to stop the murders and drug-running at Elmwood Gardens on West Second Street.

Many of the sad losses of young men in Plainfield have been due to involvement with groups that act outside the law. As described in Plainfield author J.M. Benjamin’s books about street life, leaders and followers are expected to be loyal unto death. Maybe some of these 70 or 91 people will be saved from death in gang battles. The rest of us, who try to live by the laws of the larger society, will just be glad not to be awoken by gunshots at 3 a.m., followed by the sirens of police cars and ambulances, and then – the ominous sputtering of a helicopter overhead.

--Bernice Paglia


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will these 90+ miscreants be released only to return to the Queen City? Tell me it isn't so. I wonder where they would live if the slums they live in were demolished as part of a redevelopment project??

11:02 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home