Residents Take Back the Streets at Kahekili Terrace

Free To Grow in Wailuku, Hawaii

Field of Work: Strengthening families and neighborhood environments in high-risk, low-income communities.

Problem Synopsis: In the early 1990s, there was a growing consensus among researchers that substance abuse can have roots in early childhood. Yet studies pointed to certain factors that can moderate these risks, even for children growing up in adverse conditions: improved family functioning; a positive relationship with a caring adult outside the family; clear standards against substance abuse in the family; and willingness to seek treatment for family members who are abusing drugs.

Drug dealers selling crystal methamphetamine, known as ice, used to be a common site at Kahekili Terrace, a low-income housing project on the Hawaiian island of Maui. "It was a haven for drug use and drug selling," said Lyn McNeff, chief programs officer for Maui Economic Opportunity., which manages the local Head Start program and coordinated the Free To Grow project in the city of Wailuku.

Synopsis of the Work: Free To Grow—a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) from 1992 to 2005—supported efforts by Head Start agencies and their community partners to strengthen the families and neighborhood environments of high-risk preschool children living in low-income communities. The goal was to reduce the children's vulnerability to substance abuse and related problems in later life.

A Wailuku residents' patrol formed as part of Free To Grow transformed the dangerous, dilapidated apartment complex into a safe and drug-free neighborhood. Residents organized the effort after Free To Grow brought them together with the Maui police to discuss problems at the complex. The Hawaii Public Housing Authority, which manages Kahekili Terrace, also supported the patrol.

Key Results: Sergeant Jamie Becraft and Officer Craig Bajadali of the Maui Police Department trained residents in how to safely walk their streets and identify and report suspicious activity.

Armed with flashlights and radios and wearing bright yellow T-shirts and jackets bearing the group's name—Kahekili Terrace Resident Patrol—residents began to patrol the complex. Sergeant Becraft and Officer Bajadali made the rounds with them until they were ready to go out on their own. The officers also ticketed and towed abandoned and illegally parked cars in the neighborhood.

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