*** Don’t Shoot by David Kennedy

Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America is a book-length tirade against the way the drug wars are playing out in troubled neighborhoods of America. The tirade is unaccountably whiny, irksome, and may well cause you to close the book in frustration. I cannot understand how the author and his editor chose to use such an approach.

On the other hand, the author describes a series of what is appropriate to call turnarounds, if not miracles, where innovative police departments, spurred by his ideas, turned high-crime neighborhoods into quite peaceful places, at least places where homicide statistics plummeted. How? The police brought together residents, gang members, and police officers to make it clear that outrageous crimes such as shootings and open-air drug dealing will not be tolerated, provided employment and other services for criminals who wanted to get out, and allowed the community to manage itself rather than using the standard heavy-handed police behaviors that are likely to create much bad feeling while not bringing peace to the neighborhood. Many of his observations are astute. It turns out that even gang members are more afraid of their mothers than of the police. And have you ever heard of a school-wide shooting in an inner city neighborhood? Dangerous neighborhoods can get better. I just wish that the author could make his point without the heavy “no one understands me” pathos.

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