Social Capital – Potsdam, NY

Social capital is loosely described as social relationships that can yield action in a community (Green & Haines, 2015). This is traditionally seen through community organizations which have a common interest or goals to better the community. When thinking about social capital in Potsdam, NY, people may initially think of the Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) post #1194 located in the center of town or the numerous clubs and organizations represented at the universities in the area. But, perhaps the most prominent example of social capital present in Potsdam occurred in 2012 after a young boy was murdered in the fall of 2011. After local police decided to stop the investigation into Garrett Phillip’s death due to lack of evidence and lack of funding, the whole community sought “Justice for Garrett.” In a community that is typically divided between the local residents and the college students, Justice for Garrett bridged this gap and bought support from all corners of the community.

Supporters of this cause performed substantial fundraising and increased awareness throughout St. Lawrence County by posting multiple billboards throughout the county looking for any leads on the case, even offering a $40,000 reward. A substantial amount of fundraised money was also put towards the investigation. The community’s passion and desire for answers was well received by local police and government officials as they pursued the single lead that they had on the case. While the momentum of Justice for Garrett lead to the arrest and trial of Oral Nicholas Hillary, a college student turned local in the community who had a romantic relationship with the victim’s mother, he was ultimately acquitted just a few weeks ago (McKinley, 2016). While powerful and supported by the majority of the community, Justice for Garrett perhaps lead to a one suspect witch-hunt for the killer of Garrett Phillips.


Green, G. P., & Haines, A. (2015). Asset Building and Community Development. Washington, DC: SAGE Publications.


McKinley, J. (2016, September 18). After Acquittal in Boy’s Killing, Potsdam Sighs with Relief and Resignation. The New York Times. Retrieved from