CAN A COMMUNITY TAKE ON DRUG DEALERS AND GET THEIR NEIGHBORHOOD BACK?
"PRIMETIME: CRIME" AIRS WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20 ON ABC
What happens when the members of a community decide to confront drug dealers? Chris Cuomo reports on how the people of Hempstead, New York are attempting to break the cycle of drugs and crime through a unique program spearheaded by the District Attorney's office. "Primetime" cameras go undercover for eight months in hopes of capturing something people rarely see in a place like Hempstead� change. "Primetime: Crime" airs WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
Since the early 1960s, the area of Terrace and Bedell in Hempstead, New York has been notorious for having drugs available 24/7. This neighborhood has been home to more arrests, shootings and deaths per capita than just about anywhere else in the state. Despite several attempts to curtail the drug problem, nothing has seemed to work, leaving the community under siege. The police and the Nassau County District Attorney's office decided to roll out a radical new plan, and "Primetime" is with them to see if it will work. The non-traditional effort is known as the High Point Initiative and was developed by David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The initiative encourages a unique partnership between local police, community residents and a select group of drug dealers�those identified as non-violent or first-time offenders, with potential to be rehabilitated�and banks in the theory that community disapproval of criminal activity is a more powerful deterrent than police and the threat of prison sentences.
For 13 dealers in Hempstead, the Nassau County's District Attorney's plan could be an opportunity to turn their lives around and for a community to get their neighborhood back. Instead of being handcuffed, the dealers receive a letter requesting that they come to a special meeting. If they show up to the meeting, they will not be arrested, but instead be given a new start and freedom. Amazingly, all of the dealers who receive letters show up to the meeting, where they watch video surveillance footage of themselves selling drugs. Parents, relatives, preachers and other community members face the dealers head-on and address the drug problem in their community. Law enforcement gives the dealers a choice: stop selling drugs immediately, or go to prison. But there are also counseling sessions with a support group, as well as a jobs program. The program has been successful in eight other cities across the country; will Hempstead become a model for what is possible in even the toughest places in America? "Primetime" follows the drug dealers and the community as they try to change.
And: In her short career as an up-and-coming on-air reporter, 22-year-old Jennifer Servo had covered murders before. But she never got to cover what would become perhaps the most baffling unsolved murder in Texas -- her own. Servo was found bludgeoned and strangled in her apartment in Abilene, Texas in 2002. She had recently broken off a relationship with a man her family was leery of, and was spending time with a new man, a colleague at work. Was one of them responsible for her murder? Or was it someone else? John Qui�ones investigates. This report originally aired in September 2007.
David Sloan is the executive producer.