Editorial: Loudly heralding Housing Authority’s ‘quiet success’ vs. crime

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In his 2013 book, “New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy” Edward G. Goetz writes: “The story of American public housing is one of quiet successes drowned out by loud failures. … [P]ublic housing has, for the most part and in most places, provided and continues to provide functional, decent, and affordable housing.”

Indeed, most public policy programs are defined by their “loud failures,” which are highlighted by individuals quick to denounce any government action as an abject failure and distributed by media that trafficks in bad news much the same way a drug dealer peddles narcotics — give ’em what they want.

Clearly there are all manner of failures that merit public scrutiny. However, as much as media — insofar as some percentage of us remain journalists — is responsible to report failings, it must with equal vigor disseminate the “quiet successes.”

The Worcester Housing Authority yesterday [Tuesday, Feb. 9] issued a release titled, “WHA Crime Statistics at Family Sites Continue to Drop.”

The release builds on the positive momentum from last month’s study showing the WHA’s A Better Life program is surpassing expectations in its mission to help residents in state-subsidized units begin training, school or both, and eventually graduate from public to private housing.

Among the highlights in the data released:

Vice crimes are have been reduced 98 percent from 2002 to 2015 at Great Brook Valley and Curtis Apartments — where all A Better Life participants live — and 100 percent at Lakeside Apartments;

Total arrests are down 81 percent from 2002 to 2015 at Great Brook Valley and Curtis; 76 percent at Lakeside;

Public disorders have fallen 64 percent from 2002 to 2015 at Great Brook Valley and Curtis; 87 percent at Lakeside.

WHA crime statsMariano, the former mayor and WHA resident whose tenure as executive director ends in June, said in the release, “As I prepare to leave the WHA, one of my proudest accomplishments has been the dramatic reduction in crime in our major family sites Great Brook Valley Gardens, Curtis and Lakeview Apartments.

“When I first started, we had open drug dealing and heavy gang involvement in these communities. Each year since then, we have made real progress in making these communities safe for our residents.”

Police Chief Gary J. Gemme said, in a statement to the Sun: “I applaud the reduction in crime and the improvement in the quality of life for the residents of the Worcester Housing Authority.

“Ray Mariano and his team whether working in partnership with the Worcester Police Department or through their own initiatives have made the safety and security for those living, working or visiting the housing authority property a priority. The Worcester Housing Authority and the greater Worcester community are safer because of these efforts.”

The history of public housing, as detailed in a September article in The Atlantic, is complex, its tarnished image the result of societal shortcomings that afforded much greater economic opportunity to whites in the years after World War II. This left these complexes less integrated and poorer.

The negative public perception has existed since. But it’s one whose time has passed.

The WHA, under the leadership of Mariano and incoming Executive Director Alex Corrales, is doing its part. The participants in A Better Life are doing their part. The families of Curtis, GBV and Lakeside are all doing their part. The media should too.

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