If we are honest with ourselves, those of us who live in the relative safety of middle class residential areas would likely admit that we tune out the violence occurring in certain neighborhoods.
If the street name can be easily connected to a low-income community, we just go on about our business, without a second thought about the stress those residents must live in.
But our business should be about helping those residents find a little peace and quiet as well.
At the 12th Annual Nehemiah Action Assembly, presented by Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct-Action (BUILD), Marilyn Graves talked about being shot in the leg while sitting on her front porch, surrounded by family members. The stray bullet hit her as occupants of two cars exchanged gunfire at 4 p.m. on a Monday in September last year.
"It could have been worse than it was," she told the 2,000 people in attendance at the assembly in Heritage Hall on April 21. "But you can't keep me down.
"I went home (from the hospital), washed dishes, took out the garbage and the next day walked down the other end of Ohio Street," she said. "It is not safe where I live. Gun shots. Drugs. But I've got to have faith. I'm just thankful to be here."
People like Graves approached BUILD months ago seeking help in reclaiming their neighborhoods from the dangerous offshoots of drug trafficking, which was found to be the underlying cause for the violence.
The interfaith and interracial proactive organization comprised of members of about 20 churches agreed to research possible solutions.
"We heard about what was keeping them up at night," said Bryna Reed, a committee member. "Of 600 people, we repeatedly heard first-hand accounts from people affected by the drug markets in Lexington."
What the committee found as they researched solutions was the Drug Market Intervention, a program custom-designed for each city by National Network for Safe Communities and local law enforcement.
"It lined up with what members were saying about things that were keeping them in fear," Reed said.
DMI targets the non-violent, street-level drug dealers who are drawing traffic into residential communities. Police identify those individuals, gather evidence on them, and then call them into a meeting with their parents, if possible, social service providers and community leaders who let the dealer know his or her actions will no longer be tolerated.
Then, the dealers are given a choice: participate in a program which offers educational opportunities or job training, or be arrested and go to jail.
The Huffington Post recently wrote about the program as it unfolded in Conway, S.C., a community of 16,000. After about a year, law enforcement rounded up 10 suspects, five on federal charges and five on state charges.
But there were seven others who were summoned to a meeting, shown their accumulated dossier, and asked which road they would choose. They were warned that if they chose the DMI program and messed up, the charges still dangling over their heads would be filed.
Even though they all took the second chance, some may fail. It happens. But the program has shown reductions in crimes in areas where it was implemented properly.
"Implementation has to be done," Reed said. "It is not enough to bring in the national network. We want some kind of program to be implemented."
At the assembly, Lexington Police Chief Mark Barnard said Lexington attempted the DMI program before, gathering information on 27 dealers, but none of them qualified for the program.
There are a variety of reasons for that, he said when I talked to him on Friday. They could be addicts who sell drugs to manage their addictions. They could be middle age and unwilling to change. If anyone has another program to suggest that could help deter crime in Lexington, he is willing to research it.
Police, Barnard said, have initiated the Community Law Enforcement Action Response unit, or CLEAR unit, which staffs full-time officers in high-risk neighborhoods; and the "We Care: Our Community, Our Future" initiative to combat gun violence and empower the community.
"When we have met with the chief we have seen that he is open to out-of-the-box thinking. Community involvement is important to him," Reed said
DMI takes about 11 months to show change, from the signing through implementation, at a cost of about $180,000, which is usually offset or completely covered by federal grants. Most cities, Reed said, have implemented the program with no costs.
The committee has been in conversations with officials in Cincinnati and High Point, N.C. "They sang the praises of this program," Reed said.
But, she emphasized, the success of the program hinges on community involvement.
The community must say, "We don't like what you are doing, but you are important to us."
It's about second chances, she said. It's not about being too soft on crime or too tough on crime.
"It's about thinking smarter," Reed said.
Lord knows we need more of that. That's why the BUILD committee zeroed in on open-air drug markets or street-level dealers, she said. They are the start of negative perceptions of a community and negative interactions with police. No one wants either of those scenarios.
"It's not bad people living in bad neighborhoods," Reed said. "It's good people being held hostage."
Marilyn Graves can testify to that.