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8737: Another View on Zero Tolerance (fwd)

From: kevin pina <kpinbox@hotmail.com>

"They caught him!! Come on man, they caught him and I think they are gonna 
kill him"! The two men ran around the corner towards the angry crowd that 
encircled a frightened and bloodied man who lay on the ground."He's the 
Zenglendo who's been walking into people's houses with a gun and taking 
whatever he wanted" explained the Haitian. The American knew that for the 
past two weeks a particular gang member with a brutal reputation had been 
robbing and terrorizing the community of this neighborhood in Port au 
Prince. The story the victims told was always the same, he would enter with 
a gun and dare anyone to stop him while he took what few possessions of 
value these poor and hard working people had managed to scrape together. 
Before he left he'd always make the same threat, "If you tell anyone, me and 
my friends will come back and kill you".

Now the American had been living and working within this community for the 
past several months. Zenglendos or thieves, attached to three local gangs, 
had been preying upon the inhabitants under the cover of night. Their work 
was recently made all the easier by the endemic electrical blackouts that 
had begun to last as long as a week at a time.  The American would lie in 
bed each evening hearing the gunfire followed by cries of the victims as he 
waited for the sun to rise before venturing out to investigate the cause.

The American did what he could to try to help by attending community 
meetings and encouraging people to organize themselves to pressure the 
police and the local government to do something about the gangs.  The 
American slowly began to understand that you could not count on a minimum 
response time by law enforcement even if people were lucky enough to have a 
telephone to call the police. Most of them didn't. They were truly on their 
own with only the bolt on their doors standing between them and the ruthless 
thugs who preyed upon them.

The American could only fight against his own sense of helplessness by 
insisting that the solution was to organize until they had the strength to 
get someone with authority to do something about it. Finally, he began to 
consider helping the leaders of the community to organize more forceful 
solutions to fight off the nagging helplessness.He quickly abandoned these 
notions knowing in his heart that what Haiti needed was more peace and not 
more violence. Empowering the community with what knowledge he had of 
organizing political pressure to solve the problem would be his contribution 
to this community he had come to respect and love.

This is where things stood as the bloodied man cowered before his angry 
captors. "They want to kill him" shouted his friend in English as people 
began kicking and tearing at the Zenglendo. "We have to stop them" he 
shouted back as one of the leaders of the community arrived on the scene. 
"Please, we have to stop this, we have to turn him over to the police and at 
least try to let the system work" the American pleaded. Several other 
leaders of the local community organization had arrived at this point and 
began to intervene to save the man as a hasty sidebar conference began. 
"This man has robbed and frightened these people at gun point for a long 
time. A young boy accidentally saw him go into a house down the street.  
They watched the house until the lights went out and they were sure he was 
asleep and then a group of them broke down the door and grabbed him. They 
are angry because they are tired of being afraid of him" explained one of 
the community leaders. "Can't you ask them to turn him over to the police 
and organize the victims to sign statements against him?" asked the 
American.  "We'll try but they are very angry" was the response.

The community leaders finally succeeded in convincing the crowd not to kill 
him and the Zenglendo was marched to the closest police station where five 
families swore out and signed statements testifying to his crimes.  Three 
days later he was released by the Justice of the Peace for lack of evidence 
amid rumors of a payoff by the local gang. The Zenglendo returned to the 
neighborhood and threatened to kill the families that had sworn statements 
against him. The American felt beholden to insure their safety by paying for 
the witnesses to go live with family in the countryside until things cooled 
off. Shortly thereafter, the Zenglendo was almost caught again and he left 
the area knowing that he might not be so lucky a second time.  As for the 
American, he contemplated the lesson and wondered how he might react if he 
had the chance to live the event over again, after all, his judgment was not 
infallible and his passport was not bulletproof.

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