By Alan Bean
No one can account for the dramatic drop in violent crime. According to the Washington Post, in 2011 the DC homicide rate reached its lowest point since 1963. But just across the county line, the homicide rate is experiencing an upswing. When violent crime drops there is always a reason. When gang-related violence plunged in Fort Worth, TX, a big part of the reason was the Rev. W.G. Daniels.
Daniels died this week. Marty Sabota’s obituary shows that Daniels grasped many of the principles criminologist David Kennedy outlines in his excellent book Don’t Shoot:
America has four inextricably linked problems that converge in its most troubled communities. There’s the violence that terrorizes many of its, especially, black and minority communities. There’s the chaos that comes with, especially, public drug markets. There’s the devastation being wrought on, especially, troubled black and minority communities by our criminal justice in response to the first two problems. And there’ the worsening racial divide that’s causing.
In Fort Worth, Pastor W.G. Daniels stopped the violence by forging a creative dialogue between law enforcement and the communities most affected by violent crime. A former police officer who understood the law enforcement mindset, Daniels made the perfect peacemaker. He knew why his neighbors didn’t want to talk to the police, but he also understood why law enforcement will always concentrate on high crime communities. Daniels didn’t want the police to ignore the hot neighborhoods; he just wanted them to show more respect and professionalism.
Getting gang members, community members and the police on the same page isn’t easy, but it can be done. As Daniels once told the Star-Telegram:
You had gangs like the Crips and the Bloods fighting against each other, but after we conducted a survey, we found that there just needed to be somebody to bring a truce to stop the madness and no better people to do it than pastors who meet every Sunday. We needed to send a message that it would not be tolerated, and by the help of God and Christ we were able to bring about peace.
When people are talking to one another behavior changes. Open air drug markets move underground, police officers feel more appreciated and behave with a higher level of professionalism, residents of high crime neighborhoods gain a new sense of confidence and self-respect. Criminologist David Kennedy and pastor W.G. Daniels heal communities because they understand the spiritual nature of the war they are fighting.
W.G. Daniels, former Fort Worth pastor, dies at 78
By Marty Sabota
FORT WORTH — When the Rev. W.G. Daniels preached his final sermon at Pilgrim Valley Missionary Baptist Church in 2007, gangs posed no threat during the Sunday service. And unlike some years in the past, no police protection was needed before he drove from home to his southeast Fort Worth church.
A founding father of the Ministers Against Crime volunteer program and a former police officer, the Rev. Daniels made a difference in Fort Worth. His community, thanks to his efforts, is safer.
The Rev. Daniels, pastor emeritus of Pilgrim Valley, died Monday. He was 78. He had been in ill health for several years, associates said.
In the 1990s, the Rev. Daniels helped organize MAC, in which ministers assist Fort Worth police. “We appreciate the long years of service the Rev. Daniels gave to the citizens of Fort Worth through the Ministers Against Crime program,” Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead said Friday. “No doubt, he contributed much to safety and security of our neighborhoods and saved lives along the way.”
According to a 2007 Star-Telegram article, MAC “helped clean up some very troubled neighborhoods in the 1990s” by rallying a troop of ministers who worked with local law enforcement to curb crime and violence.”At times, we were thought of as spies for the police, and we were shot at,” the Rev. Daniels said. “But we were determined, even when our lives were in jeopardy.”
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