By Mary Velan
Crime seems to be a constant concern for many communities across the country. A recent Gallup poll found 56 percent of Americans say the local crime problem is not serious, yet 46 percent believe local crime is on the rise when compared to a year ago. While traditional policing efforts are successful in reducing crime rates in some places, other cities are experimenting with new strategies to increase community safety.
#1 Deploying Social Services in KCMO
In Kansas City, Missouri, local officials and law enforcement have piloted a new program to reduce crime by focusing energy and resources on teenagers and gang members in the community. The Kansas City No Violence Alliance is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, community leaders, faith-based organizations and individual residents working to eliminate homicides and violent crime committed by a small group of people.
The goal of the collaboration is to provide members of the community identified as high risk for being involved in or being a victim of violence with resources to find a new path in life. Social service representatives are available to these individuals to guide them through different programs that focuses on personal growth and not violent crime. If individuals that are offered the services refuse them to commit violent crimes instead, local and federal prosecutors will swiftly and efficiently enforce laws against the violent activity.
By leveraging resources and individuals from a variety of sectors, the community partnership aims to prevent violent crimes from happening by addressing different factors that contribute to the activity. To address the bad behavior that leads to violent crimes requires cross-sector cooperation in the community.
The crime reduction efforts are described as deterrence by diversion – a set of strategies that are based on data, facts and technology. The alliance is able to analyze and break down data to identify what may cause violent activity and what is happening in the community. Social network analysis pinpoints individuals that qualify to participate in NoVA programs and triggers services to be offered. The technology used by the partnership enables each entity to share information with other collaborators such as law enforcement, government officials and social service workers, The Kansas City Star reported.
When teenagers are at risk of becoming a victim of shooting or to be prosecuted in connection with a shooting, they are called upon to participate in a life-skills-based employment program called Teens in Transition. Of the 22 graduates in the program last year, two-thirds reported having no negative police interaction since completing the program. After deploying the community effort, Kansas City reported the lowest homicide rate since 1972 in 2014 with 77 homicides, KC NoVA reported.
#2 Seeding the Arts
The South Bronx remains one of the poorest districts in the nation, yet the community has reported a steady decline in crime since 1971. In 1990, the Bronx was the site of 653 murders while just 95 were reported in 2014. How did this happen? The community stakeholders took it upon itself to handle gang violence through competitions in hip-hop, dance and fashion.
An article by Harold Meyerson explains racial tensions and city government neglect forced gang violence in the Bronx to reach peak levels in the early 1970s. The teenagers and gang members at the time came together to find a solution for the violent crimes. The Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting resulted in a push for competition through artistic and cultural endeavors.
Similarly, Mardi Gras Indian gangs in New Orleans had a long history of violent crimes in the 1960s. Rather than allowing the gang clashes to result in homicides and assaults, gang leaders decided to “fight” one another through nonviolent, aesthetic battles. The gangs would create elaborate masks and costumes to wear and display during the city’s annual St. Joseph’s Day celebration and throughout Mardi Gras season. By creating the outfits, the gang members were able to walk in community parades and celebrations without fear of police brutality – as law enforcement was on high alert to break up gang violence during holiday events, CityLab reported.
The legacy of the decision to put down the guns and knives and battle using costumes and masks lives on today. Many communities in New Orleans are investing in cultural campuses and amenities to keep teenagers away from criminal activity while preserving the city’s history.
#3 Funding Additional Patrols
While some communities are pooling resources to combat violent crime from all angles, others are simply opening their wallets to get more law enforcement on the streets. In more affluent communities, neighborhood associations can be found picking up the tab for police officer salaries, cars and gas to ensure heightened safety. In some Dallas neighborhoods, the cost of adding extra patrols can range from $50,000 to $300,000 a year, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Dallas’ wealthier neighborhoods are funding private patrols staffed by off-duty officers that not only keep an eye out for suspicious people, but also protect homes of vacationing residents. The Expanded Neighborhood Patrols are designed to reduce crime and ease the burden for on-duty officers. Law enforcement is able to respond to 911 calls faster, while officers can earn extra money to supplement their salaries – the community sees it as a win-win, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Opponents of the neighborhood patrol programs argue the practice promote unequal policing in richer neighborhoods. Neighborhoods adjacent to the wealthy communities have reported a significantly slower response time from police after a 911 call is placed – suggesting a clear disparity in public safety due to difference in income. Others complain that the taxes they pay to support law enforcement should be enough to ensure safety, and the additional cost feels like a double tax on them, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Law enforcement in Dallas say the extra patrols do not drain resources from other less-affluent communities. In fact, all on-duty police officers are deployed to different scenes based on several factors including:
- 911 calls
- Traffic accidents
If an off-duty officer is being paid to patrol a specific area, that does not prevent law enforcement from sending an on-duty officer in response to a call. Police aim to provide fair distribution of manpower across all Dallas communities. The extra patrols just ensure more bodies are in the area in the event of an incident, The Dallas Morning News reported.