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Can Local Churches Help Cut Crime At Hot Spots?

Minneapolis Bishop Larry Cook was preparing for Bible study in 2021 when he confronted young men selling fentanyl and other drugs in the alley between his church and a Marathon gas station. “Y’all got to move on from back here, you need to do something else,” he told them. “It got a little heated and they finally told me if I wanted to do something about it, I’d have to buy the gas station.” Over a year later, he did just that, coming up with $3 million for the corner property, which includes a convenience store and rents space to a fried-chicken place. He and members of his Real Believers Faith Center have cleaned up the grimy store, started security patrols to keep the drug dealers at bay and stopped selling tobacco products to anyone under 21. “We really believe this can be a powerful piece of the community,” he said, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Criminologists say crime happens in hot spots such as apartment complexes, convenience stores, gas stations, liquor stores, laundromats and inexpensive hotels. Taking them over is one way groups like the Black church can try to take their neighborhoods back. Inspector Charlie Adams of Minneapolis’s fourth precinct has partnered with a group of mostly Black churches for an event called 21 Days of Peace, which held community outreach at local hot spots and helped reduce crime at most of them. Adams said addressing the hot spots is helpful, but he acknowledges that it doesn’t end crime. “It moves it, but it takes pressure off that block. It’s just kind of, people can breathe, right?” he said. Joel Caplan, a professor of criminology at Rutgers University, agreed that one-off efforts move but don’t end crime. “If crime patterns are analyzed throughout the city, and that analysis is used to allocate resources to places that need the most, then you can mitigate risk,” he said.


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