The purpose of Project Catalyst is to create a comprehensive approach to combating drug abuse and related crimes in the town of Bennington, VT. Specifically, this project focuses on strategic enforcement, active community partnering, and broad prevention efforts.
This project targets ‘at-risk’ neighborhoods and streets and offers a number of different opportunities to tenants, landlords and home owners who live within the specified area referred to as the ‘saturation period.’ The project targets areas that exhibit certain risk factors (as identified below) and focuses efforts within that area for a predetermined timeframe. At the end of the saturation period, the town would measure/document improvements using statistical markers such as crime, truancy, property appearance, EMS calls and overall ‘vibe’.
Project Catalyst has two approaches. The first is a targeted effort focusing on a specific area/neighborhood, while the second are actions/campaigns that span the greater community.
Over the past five years Bennington has seen an alarming increase in overall illegal activity, especially related to drug distribution and use. Simultaneously, there has been a need to have community members more engaged in the reclaiming of their neighborhoods. Additionally, a need for combating the negative image associated with active drug enforcement and the associated negative media attention have highlighted the need for an increase in positive brand reinforcement.
The goal of this project is to reduce the number of drug related incidents through the active engagement of the community and the collaboration of multiple state and local agencies. Through enforcement, treatment and prevention, Bennington can continue its tradition of being a safe, healthy and vibrant community that focuses on the wellbeing of others and that encourages a small town way of life.
- The community is primed for action and seeking an outlet to lend support
- Our ability to use this action as a catalyst for change and position the town’s image as being responsive to the problem
- Recent news has fueled the importance and urgency of needing to fix the drug ‘problem’ in Bennington
- Local law enforcement is supportive of active enforcement and the municipality is open to redirecting resources to the program
- We are not alone in this fight against drug use and abuse
- A lack of a desire from community to participate
- A lack of receptivity of ‘at risk’ neighborhoods
- The availability of resources
- The potential impact on town image from increased enforcement
- Concerns expressed by the community around the lack of enforcement by prosecutors and judges
The purpose of Project Catalyst is to create a comprehensive approach to combating the crime concerns in the town of Bennington, VT. as they relate to drug use and abuse. Beyond that, the end goal is to create a community that affords future generations the opportunity to grow-up in a safe environment, as we believe this is the only way to increase attainment of individual potential.
This understanding is derived from the Need Theory of Abraham Maslow, who identified five stages of need that every individual experiences. Additionally, he believed that it was only when a specific need level was met, that an individual could move to the next level. In Maslow’s chart the need to Achieve comes after Physiological, Safety and Belonging, thus it was believed that one could not focus on achievement if they did not have the most basic needs met. (see figure 1 on next page)
As we look at our community, it is not farfetched to see how it would be hard for a child or young adult to focus on scholastic achievement if his/her focus remains on what the most intimate questions of safety and security. Will I be able to walk my street without being pressured or harassed? Will my living environment be free from drugs, alcohol and abuse? Is my neighborhood free from violence?
To this end, we must ensure that the most basic needs are met so our youth can achieve all that is before them.
Recognizing that a holistic approach to the drug abuse/use problem will be the only way that progress can be made in the abatement of this national epidemic, the Catalyst Program focuses its approach on three distinct areas.
The first area, PREVENTION, involves the tools and resources needed to avoid drug use and abuse in the community, especially with regard to youth. Focusing on best practices in the field of prevention and education, the desired outcome is to reduce the number of youths engaged in risky drug-related behavior.
The second component to this program is the area of ENFORCEMENT. While law enforcement may be the first thought that comes to mind, this also includes efforts by the Code Enforcement Office and specific programs designed to educate landlords and improve the safety of Bennington’s multi-unit dwellings.
TREATMENT is the final component, not because it is the least important, but because it unfortunately comes into play after an individual is already impacted by the use and abuse of drugs. This approach will tap into the expertise of health professionals in the area and the implementation of best practices in the field of treatment.
As we focus our efforts in the above areas, we begin to realize that the needed actions required to meet the objectives of the focus areas fall into a series of categories that we are calling Action Areas. These action areas include: Education, Health Services, Social Services and Municipal Services.