York County approach to drug dealers catching on?

The City of North Charleston, long known for having problems with drugs and gang-violence, is trying a new approach to getting drug violence off its streets:

A new program hopes to clean up a drug-plagued North Charleston neighborhood by steering entry-level dealers into a jobs program.

Key among its planks is that if the targets do not participate, the drug charges they were originally targeted under will be pursued, sending them in front of a judge.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials were in the Charleston Farms neighborhood Thursday to announce the pilot effort, along with the arrests of 15 suspected drug dealers brought down after a six-month undercover investigation meant to clean up the area.

As part of the round-up -- which still has as many as nine arrests to go -- at least seven other lower-tier drug dealers will be given the opportunity to avoid prosecution if they take part in a jobs and betterment program. One of the requirements is that they also come back to the community for in-person updates, detailing their progress in moving away from the drug trade.

Not too long ago, we talked with 16th Circuit Solictor Kevin Brackett about his efforts to use a similar program in cleaning up Rock Hill neighborhoods.

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.”

We also talked about what happened to those who called Brackett's bluff:

Of the eight, most of them have opted to fly right, but Donquavis McConnell chose otherwise, being arrested last month after running from police and being in possession of crack.

In keeping their promises, Brackett has said that he will be prosecuting his case personally - including the charges from August - and Rock Hill police have asked that the case be fast-tracked.

Let's hope this program bears fruit.

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