The eight people accused of dealing drugs felt the unwavering stares from Reddick and others in Rock Hill's community. But they also heard genuine offers of school choices and job choices and life choices other than prison.
Then all eight walked into another room.
Inside that second room at the police department were poster-size photos, taken from surveillance videotapes, of each of the eight selling drugs. Each of the eight had a chair with his or her name on it. In front of those chairs, not two feet away, sat a phalanx of people whose lives are spent putting drug dealers in jail for years and lives.
Their faces all said, without the words, “prison.”
This was not a neighborhood meeting. This was police showing evidence to eight people they claim are drug dealers, who all would face potential felonies if police present probable cause to a judge and ask for a signed arrest warrant, Gregory said.
“This is not a bluff,” Gregory told them.
The Blogland talked with York County Solicitor Kevin Brackett about this. According to Brackett, the attendees, who were promised they would not be arrested if they attended the meeting, were confronted by a team which included himself, Rock Hill Police, the FBI, DEA, and US Attorney's office. Only those with minor or clear records were selected for this - those whose long-time records made them "too far gone to be redeemable" were not eligible for this offer.
Brackett credited the Chief Gregory for introducing the idea to community leaders, prosectors for teaming up to support the program, as well as the community leaders who embraced the "tough love" idea behind this program - which has been implemented elsewhere:
Having the people from the neighborhood stand there and tell them they're fed up with their activities is a powerful thing, because a lot of the time, the dealers think they own the neighborhood and nobody is going to stand up to them. It says a lot that these neighborhood leaders are willing to take the lead on this, as well as offer to take care of their own so long as they're willing to change their ways.
Brackett promised that any individual who blows this "last chance" deal will see him personally prosecuting the case, warning "the charges can be instated anytime they step out of line." Knowing his no-nonsense approach to prosecution, we believe he means it.
Let's hope this team effort makes a difference.