Ex-Cons Help Reduce Crime

Baltimore is employing ex-convicts to reduce crime and violence in at-risk neighborhoods. Learn how these employees use their own experiences to put youth on the road to success

What Happened?
The Baltimore Health Department launched the Safe Streets program which hires ex-convicts to reduce crime and violence in at-risk neighborhoods. Because the ex-convicts have criminal backgrounds and connections in the area, they are able to find sources of crime and violence faster than police.

The Baltimore Safe Streets program is a community-based organization that places ex-convicts in target neighborhoods to proactively reduce crime and violence. The organization provides tools and public education to share the message of improving each neighborhood and diffusing emergent situations. The Safe Streets initiative involves workers canvassing at-risk areas and connecting youth with services to keep them out of trouble and on the road to success. The Safe Streets project focuses on:

  • Community outreach
  • Community mobilization
  • Public education
  • Faith
  • Criminal justice
  • Community involvement

The ex-convict outreach workers are familiar with the community they are canvassing in and first-hand knowledge of how crime and violence arise in those environments. These past experiences make them better able to engage at-risk youth and young adults with information and resources to avoid a life of crime. Resources include:

  • Educational opportunities
  • Employment training and assistance
  • Mental health services
  • Substance abuse treatment

The outreach workers canvass the neighborhoods during peak hours for criminal activity to stop the incidents in real-time.

The Workers
Because prior experience with violence or criminal activity makes it easier for the outreach workers to communicate with at-risk youth, the Safe Streets program hires individuals with at least four risk factors such as:

  • Gang involvement
  • Key role in gang
  • Prior criminal history
  • High-risk street activity
  • Recent victim of a shooting
  • Between the ages of 14 and 25
  • Recently released from prison or juvenile detention

The outreach workers not only speak with at-risk individuals and gangs, but also members of the community to create programs that encourage education and prevent criminal activity outside of law enforcement intervention.

Citizen Patrol
In New Orleans, police are also looking to members of the community to enforce laws in the French Quarter. The New Orleans City Council approved the creation of an unarmed citizen police force known as the Nola Patrol. The group of civilians will help police officers enforce:

  • Traffic violations
  • Zoning regulations
  • Other non-emergency laws

Because the French Quarter attracts tourists and musicians or other street performers, it can be difficult to enforce non-emergency laws with a busy police force. The mayor and New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau will fund the citizen-based patrol by a voluntary hotel tax at local hotels, WWLTV reported.

Each member of the 50-person citizen squad will undergo a six-week training period before they are sent into the French Quarter to maintain the peace under four commissioned NOPD officers. The NOPD’s Eighth District will oversee the Nola Patrol’s operations including the distribution of vehicles or bicycles to the civilians. The citizen patrol will focus non-emergency law enforcement and violations, allowing police officers to focus their attention and resources on more significant criminal activity and prevention initiatives, WWLTV reported.

Modern Policing
EfficientGov has reported on a variety of law enforcement strategies to reduce crime and poverty  with all available resources including federal funds.

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