NY1 reported on Thursday that, for the first time in city history, money seized from a narcotics bust is being re-invested in the community it was ill-gotten from, in the form of a teen center for the Albany Houses in Crown Heights. After seizing $35,000 were seized from a drug ring in the NYCHA project, the district attorney's office and the NYPD decided to use the money to open a Police Athletic League space and Teen Impact Center. With the crime ring gone and replaced with chessboards and mentors, the net gain for the teens of Albany Houses is great indeed.
ILFA is particularly thrilled about this center. Last June, I sat on a jury for three weeks in the case of a resident of the Albany Houses who was charged with beating a homeless man, Stephen Ingram, to death. The defendant had committed the crime as a teenager, and he and the witnesses, still in their teens or barely out of them, did not hold their own or other lives in particularly high regard - perhaps a product of the extremely truncated set of opportunities available to them - and were deeply distrustful of and antagonistic to authority (not without reason - as we learned during the case, the primary investigative strategy employed by the police in their area seemed to be picking up kids their age and threatening to pin any number of crimes on them until they talked). It's foolish to speculate, but if these young men had had access to this center, where they would have encountered police officers in a friendly setting and shared in activities that build mutual respect and widen horizons, perhaps the awful violence of September 29, 2007 might have been avoided. Let's hope this novel use of seized cash becomes a regular policy in Brooklyn.