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Damascus Gardens given award for anti-drug performance

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Published on: Thursday, April 25, 2013

By Brian Compere

On Saturday, the Damascus Gardens apartment complex hosted a celebration in order to recognize the success of an anti-drug program implemented there for the past couple years.

The Montgomery County Police Department selected Damascus Gardens in 2011 as the community in which it would implement the Drug Market Initiative, a program coordinated by Michigan State University’s criminal justice school and sponsored by the Department of Justice. The DMI is designed as a focused intervention to shut down open-air drug markets and, as a result, reduce crime and violence.

MCPD chose Damascus Gardens because it had a long history of violence and an open-air drug market, according to an MCPD release. Beginning in March 2011, an eight-month investigation identified and charged high-level drug dealers with criminal violations; lower-level drug dealers were identified and provided opportunities for intervention.

After the end of this eight-month span, police monitored the community to ensure the program continued to maintain a higher quality of life.

The National Association of Counties awarded Montgomery County a 2012 Achievement Award in recognition of the program’s success.

In addition, the State Attorney’s Office, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Up-County Regional Services Center, all of which collaborated with the MCPD on the program, were recognized at Saturday’s event for their support of the program.

“This is an example of when many resources come together and solve a problem,” Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks said.

Starks added that organizations such as the Christian Life Center are now stepping up to provide services to the community now that it is safer – especially for children.

Sean Libby, the pastor of the center, said the community has seen a “180 turnaround” from a couple of years ago to today.

The center also now provides a bus service from the apartment complex to Damascus High School for religious services being held there.

“After that incredible intervention, we felt we had to give these kids a boost,” Libby said

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