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Dr. Ravi Perry: The Removal of Public Pay Phones is Wrong

Saturday, September 08, 2012


Dr. Ravi Perry, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTER™

The idea that the City should remove public pay phones as a crime deterrent is yet another embarrassment for Worcester public officials.

Instead of offering comprehensive solutions, the poorly conceived idea of removing public pay phones is the answer?

Where’s the investigation? Where’s the police response to such crimes? If the alleged crime exists, why not increase patrols in that area? Why not station police near those public pay phones?

Perhaps if there weren’t so many Worcester police on unnecessary construction details, we would have the man/woman power to seriously address alleged issues such as this in a way that empowers local neighborhoods – not in a way that further disadvantages communities. The removal of phones in a neighborhood with a high percentage of lower income populations will likely increase the inability of many families to access communication.

This decision could lead to serious problems, including disparate-impact discrimination claims, and other lawsuits. On its face, the stated purpose of the pay phone removal policy is to reduce drug trafficking within the established “perimeter.” However the impact is to remove public resources around a “perimeter” that is inclusive of mostly people of color. The idea is so ill conceived, I can only hope this idea was not actually thought through. The fact that the idea is even suggested is ludicrous.

I've heard that neighborhood organizations have lobbied for the removal of the phones and councilors are simply responding to constituents with this policy. However, leadership is not only about responsiveness, effective leadership is also about educating constituents as to what actions are both legally permissible and that uphold the rights of all.  The idea offered by city councilors also reeks of racialism and a lack of understanding about how to solve crime responsibly.

Meanwhile, news and ideas of councilors offers no facts, no number of calls used for alleged criminal activities, no data. Only allegations and innuendo.

The mere fact that elected councilors can recommend the removal of public resources available to tens of thousands to solve a problem that affects a significantly lower population of individuals is an embarrassment. As a result, any future “facts” will have been lost as the credibility of these councilors is called into question.

How could they make such allegations with unsubstantiated details?

Clearly, there are better ways to attempt to solve alleged drug trafficking. Removing public pay phones is not the answer. 


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