JOE STANCZAK is at the end of his rope. And I'm hoping Jesus can help him the way He helped Marie DeLany.
Stanczak lives on East Russell Street, in Tioga, where two-bit dealers peddle dope right outside his living-room windows. They lounge on his steps. Once, a particularly brazen salesman held court on a chair that had been left at the curb as trash.
"I'm glad he was comfortable," says Stanczak, sarcastically.
Whenever Stanczak calls the cops, the dealers scatter. But the next day, they're back.
A while ago, he says, the police upped their presence on the block and he and his neighbors enjoyed about four months of peace. But once cops shifted their focus to other drug-battered neighborhoods, the dealers happily resumed operations.
"This is outrageous," he says. "I don't know what to do."
So I told him about Marie DeLany, who shared with me this week an astounding tale of how she snuffed out drug dealing on her Frankford corner - by blaring Christian music out her third-floor windows.
Old-time standards like "Amazing Grace," "The Old Rugged Cross," "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" and "The Lord's Prayer." You name the sacred song, it wafted three doors down to the intersection of Penn and Arrott streets, where dealers sold to addicts who stumbled up from the Arrott bus terminal.
"It wasn't loud enough to be obnoxious," says DeLany, 57, who staggered her broadcasts between noon and 8 p.m. "I didn't get complaints from neighbors. But it could definitely be heard."
Over the next few months, she says, the dealers drifted away. And they haven't returned, even though she hasn't barraged the block with "How Great Thou Art" in well over a year.
Say "Amen," somebody!
"God gave me the idea," says DeLany, head of Overington House Inc., a nonprofit that helps homeless mothers.
"I felt such hatred for these young men, and I prayed for the willingness to see them as human beings," she says. "We all have struggles and problems. If all I felt was bitter, how would that change anything?"
She thought of how, whenever she feels rattled by life, music calms her - especially the hymns that have been the soundtrack of her life (she and her minister husband, Ken, once headed their own church). Perhaps, if these young men heard these songs, they'd feel calmed too.
Or at least uncomfortable enough to move off a church-y corner that might remind them of a God-fearing relative who expected better of them.
DeLany is not the first person to attempt to alter public behavior by altering public sound.
In London, the British Transport Police pipe classical music into the Underground transit system, as a crime deterrent. In Canada, 7-Eleven stores and public parks have used classical music to telegraph the message that civility trumps incivility.
And last November, in Portland, Ore., the city's light-rail system - TriMet - began broadcasting Rachmaninoff and Beethoven at its 162nd St. station - ground zero for the city's worst crime.
"The results have been encouraging," says East Portland state Rep. Jefferson Smith, a champion of the pilot project. "There has been a 41 percent decrease in police service calls to the area, at a time when calls have generally increased across the region."
As for Philly, Mayor Nutter's spokesman, Mark McDonald, says that Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, is aware of the "sound-and-territory-marking theory" and its use as a safety tool, but it's not on the flat-broke city's radar right now.
But, why wait for the city to broadcast mood-changing tunes, when it's so easy to do ourselves? Maybe the punks who use our streets as pharmacies would feel mortified to do so if the Pizzicato Polka was their unhip accompaniment.
If it could work on DeLany's block, perhaps it could work on Joe Stanczak's block, too.
"I'll think about it," he says, intrigued. "Because this can't go on much longer."
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