Vigilantes and volunteers

By SHARON BASCO  |  August 14, 2008

"If that means we have to break his fingers," another added, "then we break his fingers."
Activity Groups
Some city programs for self-defense and relations in the Cathedral and Castle preservation of property seem to be as effective in their own quiet way as the JDL. LEAA funds have allowed the Mayor's Safe Streets Committee to organize community activity groups in the D Street housing project in Southie, and in the Savmore section of Roxbury (bounded by Savin, Moreland, Blue Hill, and Warren Streets). The funds also help sponsor a neighborhood patrol that concerns itself mostly with community Square areas under the South End Neighborhood Action Program. Bumper stickers in Spanish and English are passed out in these neighborhoods — they read "Don't Buy Stolen Goods." To help people hang onto valuables or improve the chance of their return if stolen, the neighborhood workers engrave stereo sets, television sets and other valuables with the owner's social security number. Incidental aid through the LEAA provides funds for recreation equipment for South End kids and for scout posts and baseball teams to "keep the kids from getting bored enough to get in trouble," according to Jabzanka.

The most important factor in neighborhood self-defense against crime can't be bought with all the LEAA funds in the country. It's an attitude. It's the feeling that someone besides you cares when a thief breaks into your house, or cares if you are attacked on the street. It's the feeling of responsibility for the whole community that is apparently fostered in a place like the North End.

Charles Falco sat in his office at Little City Hall, talking about the crime problem, speaking in low tones that made it hard to understand much of what he was saying without leaning across the desk. There was lots of commotion in outer offices, mostly in Italian. A little girl with dark curly hair pulled her tiny brother right into the manager's office, past all the desks and the shouting in the room, came around the corner smiling at Falco and said, "Charley, where's the bathroom?"

He grinned a wide, wide grin, told her where it was, and said, "Don't you see what it takes? I'm Charley to that kid and whoever else wants to talk to me. They don't have to feel like they can't talk. They don't have to feel like they won't be heard or they have nothing to say. They're not afraid ... they're learning that they're part of a community from little ones up. You start them that way, and they have a good chance of turning out the kind of people who will look out for their community family. Then you don't need to worry. They're going to take care of you when you're an old guy on the street."

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