[FONT=Arial,Helvetica]ARREST IS STILL HARD TO ACCEPT
Dedication To Help Youths Still Strong
About six months ago, a short, powerful-looking man with closely cropped hair walked into Frederick "Yes" Whitaker's boxing gym on Tower Street. His name was Tony Montanez. He had heard about the gym and wanted to refer kids to it.
That was Montanez's job as a streetworker: meeting kids on the streets and in schools who were getting into trouble, gaining their trust and helping them better their lives.
The two struck a bond. Montanez sent troubled kids to Whitaker, calling every few weeks to say he had more who were interested. Whitaker last heard from him a few weeks ago. "He was going to bring some more kids," Whitaker said. "But they never got here." On May 3, Montanez, 39, was arrested as part of a drug investigation by three law-enforcement agencies. He was charged with trafficking in cocaine and other drug offenses.
With the arrests of Montanez and four other men, police seized more than two kilograms of cocaine and $370,000 in cash.
They have since searched the phones of the five men, looking for numbers to co-conspirators involved in bringing cocaine from out of state to Winston-Salem, according to search warrants in the case. The shock of Montanez's arrest has not worn off.
"Of course the initial reaction was shock and disbelief, and we just really couldn't believe it," said Alvin Atkinson, the interim executive director of the Center for Community Safety.
"I guess maybe we're in denial of it still," he said. "We still haven't come to terms with it in how our programming works, what we hope to accomplish with our programs."
The center used to run the streetworker program. It still works closely with the streetworkers, who now work for the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina. Montanez's arrest raises questions for the streetworker program and a chance to strengthen it with better support of the streetworkers, Atkinson said. "( Streetworkers ) are going to come close to people who might be about to commit crimes," he said. "If you're a streetworker and a situation comes up, who do you turn to? Is there another network?"
"And I don't think we ever really thought that through," he said. This is not the first time Montanez has held a position mentoring children and then wound up in jail.
In the late 1980s, Montanez started working at Casa Prat, a nonprofit agency in his hometown of Vineland, N.J.
He ran a program that taught karate to gang members and at-risk youth, according to a profile in a Center for Community Safety newsletter in 2004. Montanez had studied martial arts since he was 11. He won a world kickboxing title at the National Blackbelt League World Championship in 1994, at age 27. But a few months later, he was arrested at a bus station in Fayetteville as he was taking 4 kilograms of cocaine from Miami to Philadelphia. Montanez spent the next six years in prison.
Matthew Robinson is an associate professor at Appalachian State University and the author of Why Crime? An Integrated Systems Theory of Antisocial Behavior. It isn't unusual that someone apparently successful in life also chooses to be involved in crime, Robinson said.
A well-known theory of crime is "strain theory," developed in the 1930s by sociologist Robert Merton. The theory says that while everyone may want to be well-off and successful, the legitimate ways to get there, such as education, aren't available to everyone, Robinson said. If someone feels they don't have a legitimate way to be successful, they feel "strain," or stress, and turn to other ways to get money. Robinson and another ASU professor, Dan Murphy, wrote a paper published earlier this year suggesting a change to that theory. They proposed that some people are "maximizers," who are successful in conventional ways but also willing to commit crime.
"( Maximizers ) don't stop working, they don't stop going to school" but add to their income by committing crimes, Robinson said. "The logic of it is that you never obtain the American Dream," he said. "However much you have, you always want 25 percent more." With drugs, "you have something that can bring enormous wealth and have relatively low risk," he said.
After Montanez served his time, he got involved with the streetworker program. He also worked as a handyman and sold cars. Ed Toole, who oversees the program for the YMCA, wouldn't say how much Montanez was paid.
He said that his agency looked closely at Montanez's past, including a charge in 2000 accusing Montanez of soliciting an undercover female Winston-Salem police officer for prostitution.
Montanez pleaded guilty in that case. The streetworker program, run at the time by an agency that has since folded, hired him after he finished a 12-week program designed to help former prisoners turn their lives around. As a streetworker, Montanez has helped schools, law enforcement and parents by alerting them when he spots gang influences on teenagers. Whitaker has many people walk into his gym and ask to volunteer. They usually don't keep coming, but Montanez did.
"Tony talked to me with the same intensity that I had for the kids," Whitaker said. "He told me a lot of positive things that I wanted to hear." Whitaker has a reminder of the good that Montanez did. One of the teenagers he sent to the gym still goes. And all the young boxers have learned something from the arrest, he said.
"They wish everything in his life gets better, because they know something is not right," Whitaker said. "They know that everything is not what it seems." [/FONT]