US Muslim Patrol Fights Street Drugs
CAIRO — A group of Muslim men patrol the street of their a crime-prone Washington neighborhood to deter drug dealers and restore a lost sense of safety, to the welcome of residents ad local police.“Nobody is going to invest in a drug-infested area,” Leroy Thorpe, founder of the Muslim neighborhood watch who goes by the Muslim name Mahdi, told the Washington Post on Tuesday, August 28.
About two months ago, the owners of the 35-unit Kelsey Gardens complex in Shaw, a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in central Washington, D.C., asked the group to arrange security for the residents and crack down on drug dealers.
The complex is scheduled to be razed next month and a new structure will take its place and the owners want to encourage more investment in the area.
The patrol comprises a dozen of practicing Muslim men and is a spinoff of the Citizens Organized Patrol Efforts (COPE), a neighborhood watch established in 1988 in Shaw.
Dressed in ample red T-shirts and red baseball hats with “COPE Patrol” written on them, the Muslim patrol works 12-hour shifts on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the peak nights for drug dealing.
They room the streets for suspicious activity and search behind large trash cans in alleys for hiding drug addicts.
They also walk the parking lot and move between the rows of cars, hoping their presence would chase off “undesirable people.”
“They see us, they are going to flee,” said Thorpe, who carries a mobile to call police if he needs help.
People who live on the block have come to recognize the Muslim patrol member and always wave while walking out of their apartment building.
The Muslim men wave back and drop the Muslim greeting of “Assalamu Alaikum,” Arabic for peace be upon you.
Several residents and local business people were appreciative of the Muslim effort.
“They are really helping out,” said Tony Dolford, 38, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1993.
“One thing you don’t see now is drug activity,” agreed Everett Lucas, 66, who owns a market across the street from the apartment complex.
Police, who say they know of no other religion-based citizens patrol operating in the District, credit the Muslim neighborhood watch with rousting the drug dealers and restoring public safety.
“There was an overwhelming difference,” said Officer Earl Brown of the 3rd Police District.
Although the patrol members carry no weapons, their mere presence on the streets of the once crime-prone neighborhood seems to be enough.
“You have eyes and ears in the neighborhood,” said Cmdr. Larry McCoy, who heads the Third Police District.
“Most people don’t like to commit crimes in front of people who are going to tell the police about them,” he noted.
“Knock on wood,” McCoy said. “It’s made a difference. Those planning to do wrong in the neighborhood know they are out there, and it stops them.”