Three great stories we found on the internet this week.
The Washington Post reports on how a police-free zone in Seattle has become a microcosm for public safety without the cops.
The police-free zone formed earlier this month when, in response to protests, law enforcement vacated an area of the city and never returned. In the time since, a public safety force made up of protesters calling themselves “sentinels” has been patrolling the area, albeit in a very different fashion than the cops might. They have peacefully defused altercations, prevented vandals from breaking windows, picked up trash following chaotic incidents and engaged with people needing mental health assistance. At one point, one of them engaged a man throwing apples at protesters; the man punched the sentinel, who did not retaliate. Eventually, the man calmed down and walked away.
The idea of humanizing policing has gained traction in recent days — Reasons to be Cheerful has written about Camden reconstituting its police force under a community public-safety model. “These alternatives that don’t involve forcing someone to the ground and immediately handcuffing them work and provide for a much safer community in general,” one Seattle sentinel told the Post.
One of the more devastating aspects of the coronavirus lockdown has been that for some domestic abuse victims, even making a phone call for help has become too risky. This grim fact shows up in the data: Italian domestic violence hotline Telefono Rosa received 55 percent fewer calls in March, which experts attribute to victims always being within earshot of their abusers.
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France and Spain have come up with a surreptitious solution. Taking advantage of the fact that pharmacies have been among the few public spaces to remain open, governments are encouraging abuse victims to ask pharmacists for “mask 19” — a codeword that signals to the pharmacist that the person is being abused. The coded language allows victims to quickly and quietly ask for help, even if their abuser is nearby. Pharmacists are instructed to then discreetly contact the authorities.
There isn’t any data on exactly how many victims have benefitted from this system, but it is just one of an array of efforts countries are making to reach abuse victims. The French government, for instance, is paying for 20,000 nights in hotel rooms for domestic violence victims looking for escape.
Latino communities have been hit increasingly hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In Chicago, for instance, Latinos make up 39 percent of all cases, despite being 30 percent of the city’s population. At the same time, these communities face some of the highest barriers to accessing health care, a dilemma the promotoras model aims to help fix.
Promotoras are community health outreach workers who make house calls, hold classes and generally try to connect Latino communities to health care. Not necessarily doctors or nurses themselves, promotoras act as bridges to the health care system when issues like mistrust, language barriers or a lack of insurance make that difficult. The model was born in Latin America in the 1950s, when women there relied on promotoras for safe and reliable reproductive health information. Their services are typically free or very cheap, and most importantly, local — as active members of the communities they serve, promotoras are trusted and easily accessible.
The system works. One study found that promotoras in Georgia improved access to health care for 75 percent of the patients they worked with. And the CDC acknowledges them as an integral part of health care in Spanish-speaking communities. “Promotoras [have] a cultural entrée that many professional health workers might not have,” said one researcher.