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Working Together To Make Everyone Safer

LISC Community Safety Initiative Director Julia Ryan

Safety is one of the most important building blocks of successful neighborhood revitalization. Safe surroundings allow businesses to attract customers, children to play freely and neighbors and visitors to come and go without fear, adding vitality and life to a community. This is a truth that community development practitioners have long known and one that is becoming increasingly clear to others outside our industry.

The events of the last year in Ferguson, Baltimore and other cities cast a national spotlight on the difficulty of building trust and collaboration between police and community members in many neighborhoods, particularly those where other challenges like poverty, unemployment and blight persist. The social fabric of the community frays when that trust is absent, and has less chance of remaining whole in a crisis.

Connections with community members help police officers build trust

Against this backdrop, leaders around the country are increasing their focus and investment on promoting place-based safety in ways that complement other revitalization efforts on many fronts and empower community members to participate in decision-making. This work includes expanded federal investment in programs to enhance community safety. Just this month, The U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance announced 14 new grants totaling $4.7 million under the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program (BCJI), which supports cross-sector, community-oriented and research-driven responses to crime.

Since 2012, LISC has served as the national technical assistance leader for the BCJI network, which now includes 60 sites (59 cities). In this work, LISC draws on decades of experience in supporting community-police partnerships and the lessons of many brave and creative practitioners to help community developers and their partners address crime “hot spots” that are hindering the progress of local revitalization efforts.

In both urban and rural areas, several themes stand out as hallmarks of a strong strategy. LISC seeks to support local leaders in developing skills, knowledge and relationships in these areas, which are:

  • Using data and research to guide program strategy,
  • Engaging community members in shaping and implementing crime prevention and revitalization efforts,
  • Tackling problems from multiple angles through cross-sector partnerships, and
  • Integrating crime control efforts with revitalization strategies.

A Richmond, Va. officer greets a resident

Given the complex, deeply rooted and interconnected challenges that high-crime, high-poverty neighborhoods face, now is the time to leverage what we know and support new innovations to make all our communities safe and vibrant places to live and work. Over the next few weeks, we will share with readers some of what we have learned about how to work together with community members and law enforcement to build trust and bring about collaborative solutions to make neighborhoods safer for everyone.

 

Posted in Community Safety

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