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July 07, 1982 - Image 6

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Michigan Daily, 1982-07-07

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cP inion
Page 6 Wednesday, July 7, 1982 The Michigan Daily

The Michigan Daily
Vol. XCI, No. 34-S
Ninety-two Years of Editorial Freedom
Edited and managed by students
at the University of Michigan
Making an image
SINCE ANNE Gorsuch began running the
the Environmental Protection Agency, the
nation's top environmental watchdog has been
the object of intense criticism and scrutiny.
Now, while the agency is cutting spending on its
clean air and water enforcement programs, it
has hired-at the expense of. $221 a day-a
media coach to help spruce up the agency's
soiled image.
Ostensibly, the consultant has been hired to
help administrators give the press better in-
formation, but the underlying idea is to teach
artful dodging of probing media questions.
Perhaps the scheme will improve the public
perception of the EPA some, but-at the heart of
the agency's image problem are its lax enfor-
cement and attempted gutting of many en-
vironmental laws.
Among the EPA's attempted victims since
Gorsuch took over the agency nearly 18 months
ago have been both the Clean Air and Water ac-
ts, as well as toxic waste cleanup programs.
Meanwhile, according to most opinion polls, an
overwhelming majority of Americans do not
want environmental laws weakened.
If the EPA is truly intent upon improving its
image, then Gorsuch will fire the media whiz
and use the money to perform the task the
agency was assigned. But as long as the EPA is
lax at doing its job, the tarnished image will
remain-and the environment will suffer.
"NOW, ON THIS ONE, IT'S THE FACAE
WE WANT TO GET RIP OF"
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Fighting crime
withoutthe cops

4

4

4

By Frank Browning
SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. -
Winter light was just filling the
streets when Billy and Lois John-
ston were skipping down the
sidewalk to catch' their'
school bus.
"Watch out!" Bill screamed at
his sister, jerking her off of the
street as a car came careening
toward them. But the car
screeched to a halt, spun around
and sped back up and onto the
sidewalk, aiming at the boy.
AS LOIS and Billy again
dedged he car, the driverleapt
out flailing a switchblade and
threatened. to kill them before
they ran to an uncle's homenear-
by.
Normally that driver would
have faced several criminal
charges, including assault with a
deadly weapon and would likely
have gone to prison. Instead his
daughter and Lois signed a
private "settlement agreement."
Children taking the rap for
their parents? A private
agreement? And with the ap-
proval of the police department?
IT'S ALL part of a project
called the Community Board
Program which attempts to
prevent crime and social disor-
der by bringing disputants
together in voluntary civilian
hearings to resolve their own con-
flicts.
San Francisco's community
boards, first established in 1977,
hear complaints about
everything from landlord-tenant
troubles, noise and parking
disputes to vandalism, drug
dealing and gang fights. Their
object is not to control crime but
to prevent it by empowering the
citizens of the community to take
control of their own troubles
before they turn violent.
Raymond Schonholtz, director
of the program, argues that the
Community Conflict Boards suc-
ceed precisely where the courts
and the police fail: crime preven-

tion. Juvenile crime is a case in
point.
THE MESSAGE juveniles get
from the courts usually results
in nothing more than a slap on the
wrist. Schonholtz's Community
Board alternative encourages all
parties to come together volun-
tarily to resolve their differences.
In a recent case where two
juveniles broke into a corner
grocery, the board brought
together the store owner, the two
boys, their parents and other
neighbors concerned about the
rowdy kids. Result: The boys
agreed to pay for the damage
they had done, under supervision
from their parents, and the store
owner agreed to listen seriously
to complaints the kids had about
his treatment of them.
The theory behind the Com-
munityBoard Program is that
conflict actually serves a useful
purpose. Conflicts, Schonholtz
argues, expose real but often
unarticulated problems that exist
between friends, within the
family or among groups of people
in neighbors and communities.
TAKE, FOR example, the case
where Lois and Billy were nearly
killed. Thedriver was a father of
a former girlfriend of Lois.
Through full hearings involving
parents and children in both
families, the board learned that a
feud had been building between
the families for several months
as a result of a fight between the
two girls. Once a settlement was
reached between them, the
families were able to live in
peace. According to Schonholtz,
when such disputes are handled
in the criminal justice system
they leave participants more
embittered than they were at the
start. He calls the problem "theft
of conflict."
"Lawyers - and I am one," he
said, "skillfully and carefully
steal the legitimate conflicts out
of the community and take them
into the courtroom. They remove
the parties physically and
emotionally from whathas hap-

pened and in the end no one gets
satisfaction."
The community boards have
won growing.,support from the
San Francisco police, who now
refer hundreds of cases to them
rather than to the district attor-
ney for criminal prosecution. In
one neightborhood where the
boards are especially active,
police noted a 15 percent reduc-
tion in misdemeanor crimes in a
year.
IN DETROIT, Philadelphia
and even New York City citizen
organizations also are becoming
increasingly vociferous in taking
matters into their own hands.
Detroit, which experienced an
overall 30 percent drop in serious
crimes from 1977 to 1981, has
drawn national attentionforits
network of community police
mini-stations and crime-fighting
block clubs.
In New York, Richard Shapiro,
director of the police depar-
tment's civil participation
program, has been developing
neighborhood block
organizations among both
residents and shopkeepers.
Shapiro's argument, like those of
the community advocates in San
Francisco, is that the people who
live on the streets must take
responsibility for those streets.
Neighbors must take each other's
troubles seriously, and together
invent solutions without relying
on such crime experts as
lawyers, police and judges to do
the work for them.
Instead, the community ad-
vocates contend, fighting crime
has moretodo with that old line
about being our brother's keeper
than it does with building new
prisons or arming the police with
high-powered weapons.
Browning, co-author of
"The American Way of
Crime, " wrote this article for
the Pacific NewsService.

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