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Human Chain used to call for anti-drug effort in the North Clinton neighborhood

April Franklin

Family members, neighbors, law enforcement and school staff gathered along North Clinton Avenue in Rochester in a human chain on Saturday, in an effort to positively occupy the space where some people use and sell drugs in the area by saying No Más!

They wanted to temporarily disrupt drug sales on a prominent section of North Clinton where organizers say some of the highest rates of calls for services, opioid overdoses and arrests occur.

The event began at the intersection of Siebert Place and North Clinton and spread out to Kappel Place and along Don Samuel Torres Park near School 20.

The campaign, using the Spanish phrase No Más, or “no more,” is an effort by community residents and Project Clean to improve the neighborhood by eliminating drug activity.

Kristen Cushman-Smith is the coordinator for Project Clean. That’s an acronym which stands for Community Law Enforcement & Assistance Network, and it’s a program of the Ibero-American Development Corporation and is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Cushman-Smith  says that when it comes to the national opioid epidemic, people living in inner-city communities like the North Clinton neighborhood, have a much different experience than people who live outside the city.

“People think about getting up in the morning and walking out of their house you know going to get their newspaper in the morning. Here if you walk out your front door you might see someone shooting up in front of your house. So that’s a very different sort of victimization that happens in the neighborhoods.”

Organizers say that children deserve a place to play that is safe, clean and well maintained. And they say that Don Samuel Torres Park suffers from an image of a dirty and potentially dangerous space, where used needles can be found consistently.  They note it’s also next to a school and playground.

Information on addiction treatment services and employment opportunities were provided at the event for those who were interested.

Cushman-Smith added that, “Our message is we love you but not what you’re doing.  We really want to provide opportunities for people, even the drug dealers.”