Police headquarters (Providence, RI)
The brawling at Kennedy Plaza has continued, and the police have dutifully arrested eight students (five from Mount Pleasant, and three from Central) and charged them with criminal trespassing. As I spectulated earlier, the origins of the fracas, which turned into two afternoons of rioting, was sparked by geography: the East side dissing the South side. A classic! The Providence Journal (registration required) has more.
In a very Rhode Islandesque twist, Providence police on scene to keep the peace on Friday were joined by "Institute for the Study & Practice of Nonviolence". We'll see how this works out, to be sure. Their website claims to have "reduced arrests in the Kennedy Plaza bus interchange by 95%", but oddly, makes no claim to have helped reduce crime in Kennedy Plaza by any corresponding amount (the ProJo police log, infrequently run as it is, suggests that no corresponding drop in crime accompanies this reduction in arrests).
They also claim to have:
I cannot see how anyone could make, much less accept, the first claim with a straight face. How could the Institute possibly quantify the number of acts of retaliatory violence prevented by their saintly presence? Is this information offered by potential criminals themselves ("I was about to shoot that motherfucker, but then the The Institute for the Study and Practice of Non-Violence showed me the way to peace!")? How did they quantify the first claim? Exit interviews? Anonymous tips? There's no way to determine their impact on preventing "retaliatory violence" in raw numbers or as a percentage of retaliatory violence in the city. And to be sure, there have been some recent high profile revenge killings in the city of late. Similarly, when revenge killings occur, are we to hold the Institute culpable for failures? Taking responsibility for "success" would also infer culpability for "failure", but realistically, they can take neither credit nor blame for something beyond their direct control.
The second claim is more straightforward, yet is not as impressive as it perhaps sounds. Providence does not have the generic community tensions that, for example, Crown Heights has. Recently, there were fears of tensions simmering between the city's (relatively small) Cambodian and black communities after a recent murder, but these fears appeared to be more smoke than fire. What impact the institute has had on reducing or eliminating these nascent tensions is unknown.
And lastly, not to sound like a Republican (which I am), but how much are they costing us? They mention a $99,200 grant from the Department of Health and Human services secured by our RINO Senator Lincoln Chaffee, but they do not mention what the state of Rhode Island or the city of Providence have donated. Fine words and work, to be sure, but is it worth the money?