Fighting Crime with Community Involvement

Among urban cities where crime is a constant threat to the community’s prosperity, an increasingly important aspect of crime prevention is the connection and cooperation of residents with enforcement authorities. Government officials need community involvement to make the most of their efforts to fight crime and community members need to feel confident that their police force and government officials are looking out for their well-being in order to cooperate with them.

To that end, the City of Springfield launched two crime-prevention measures earlier this month. The first, Operation Blue Knight, launches police into high-crime neighborhoods to patrol and engage with residents to create healthy relationships and foster communication between the two.  In a press conference on June 3rd, Police Commissioner Fitchet said the patrols are models for future “Blue Knight deployments,” where one neighborhood at a time is saturated with police force, rather than the entire city.

The second initiative features the mayor in neighborhood walks in order to foster community engagement and allow residents to voice their concerns first hand on crime prevention or any other area. The mayor plans on doing this type of walk in high-crime areas of every community of the city. Springfield Institute staff has been part of neighborhood walks in the South End and North End communities, where we experienced this dynamic up front. (The next neighborhood walk will be July 12th on Belmont Avenue. Contact City Hall- 311- for more information.)

These two initiatives create stronger, more aware communities that feel more secure to their residents, thus empowering those residents to speak out on the wrongs and fight against the crime that they see.

This technique has also been tried in other cities around the country, as with Mayor Cory Booker in Newark, who focused on police visibility. Newark Public Safety Director Anthony Campos said there hadn’t been any murders during the hours of the patrol since they began—certainly an impressive feat.

There was another program in North Miami Beach that was designed to increase police presence in the community; on-duty officers were required to visit five businesses and, later, five residences to check for anything suspicious, and leave a card there saying that they did so.  Because this program was such a success, they created another program where they discern the areas at the most risk and saturate the neighborhoods with police for a varying period of time— comparable to Fitchet’s goals with Operation Blue Knight.

Though these programs are not identical to the ones in Springfield it’s some combination of the above: Booker’s visibility, whose persistence led to concrete results; and the community engagement of the Miami Beach programs. Based on this, Operation Blue Knight could be very successful if it continues on its current path, bringing together positive traits of projects that have succeeded in similar communities.

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