It was a long time coming, but last week Congressman Elijah Cummings(MD) introduced legislation titled The Dawson Family Protection Act to protect those who witness neighborhood crimes or help police get drugs out of their neighborhood.
A lot of people claim not to understand why our people in certain neighborhoods pretend not to see, hear or know about crimes being committed right in front of their faces. They believe it’s because people hate the cops so much that they’d rather let criminals get away with destroying their community than help the police. That’s not true. They’re scared to death not just for their own lives but for the lives of their children and it’s a real fear.
We learned that in the most sickening and heartbreaking way in 2002 when the Dawsons, a family a five (kids were 9 to 14) were all killed when their home was firebombed in retaliation for the family’s continued complaints to police about drug trafficking in their neighborhood. The Dawsons lived in Baltimore, Congressman Cummings district, which has a higher murder rate than Los Angeles and New York. Another woman’s home in Baltimore was firebombed six months ago for the same reason.
What message is the law leaving that speaks louder than burning down a family of five? Nothing that I know of. So when people complain, “Why aren’t they doing anything to clean up their own neighborhood?” here’s your answer. If we are going to be serious about the war on drug, we need the people in the neighborhoods being poisoned to stand up and lead the fight. They can’t do it if we aren’t supporting them and just commending them for their bravery is clearly not enough. Neither is lighter sentences for those on the Dawson’s block buying and selling drugs. Non-violent crime my ass.
In addition to increasing penalties for witness intimidation and other funding for witness protection, Cummings legislation requires $5+ million from the National Drug Control Policy to support programs that protect communities and members at risk. With all that the NDCP is doing wrong, this would be something right and might actually make a difference. If people know they are not alone and will be protected, others will stand up. These people are the majority, but they don’t have the protection to take advantage of their status.
This is the purpose of government; to help people take care of their own lives, businesses, families and neighborhoods. We all know we’re behind in the supposed war on drugs, but here is an opportunity to at least give us a fighting chance.