11 May May 10 – May 15 is National Prevention Week
For 30 years, Community Coalition has stepped up to address the effect of liquor stores on community safety. In the early 1990s, South LA’s concentration of alcohol outlets had swelled to more than 700. The community itself had more alcohol retail spaces than the total number in 13 states. CoCo launched the “Rebuild South Central Without Liquor Stores” campaign in response, which mobilized tens of thousands of residents to participate in hundreds of hearings, rallies, and actions to prevent their re-openings. The multiyear campaign eventually resulted in the permanent closure of over 150 liquor stores, and the conversion of 40 others into community-friendly businesses, such as laundromats, markets without alcohol, affordable housing, and nonprofit organizations.
The activists knew that criminalizing addiction would only make matters worse. They believed that South LA residents most impacted by the crisis should be included in creating real solutions for their community. They knew that their prevention work had to be tied to community organizing in order to make lasting change.
The success of the campaign ultimately propelled the organization into the national spotlight for its willingness to take on the powerful alcohol industry and for its innovative use of the nuisance abatement strategy to advance public safety and address substance abuse. While the right criticized the campaign as anti-business and the left criticized the organization for being prohibitionist, organizational leaders and community residents knew that they were onto something important. In fact, studies documenting the impact of the liquor store closures revealed a 27% decrease in crime in the areas where those liquor stores once operated. In a short time, Community Coalition had found a direct and effective way to reduce crime in the community—without increasing incarceration or policing.
Each year, National Prevention Week includes daily themes to focus on major substance use and mental health topics. Three primary goals of National Prevention Week are to 1) Involve communities in raising awareness of substance use and mental health issues, 2) implement prevention strategies, and 3) showcase the effectiveness of evidence-based prevention programs.