When crime is as prevalent as it is in some areas of Oakland, CA you need some creative ways to combat it. One way is from the ground up, as this story from Inside the Bay Area.com indicates. Pastor Raymond Lankford is working hard in his community to reclaim youths from problems caused by the widespread drug abuse and the disintegration of families and common culture that follows. One of his innovative approaches to stabilizing the environment for local youths is by educating them when they come to get a haircut. “The barber is a hidden gem. Drug dealers, businessmen, preachers, everyone sits in the barber chair. They have influence, and they have been stable role models in the community.”
Another approach is the traditional “top-down” variety as reported in the New York Times, only this effort has a twist. Oakland police have identified a Top 50 list of individuals they think are causing trouble in the community. They are contacting the individuals, requesting they come to police to talk about what’s going on, and then offer a wide array of services to them including job training. The effort is based on one implemented in Boston over a decade earlier, called the “Boston Miracle” that initiative yielded a drop in murders in Boston from 152 in 1990 to 31 in 1999.
There are two other ongoing efforts to fight crime in other parts of the country that deserve attention. The first is in Naperville, IL where police helped establish a family resource center to keep children off the streets after school. Just with the addition of after-school and summer programs for low-income children the community has seen its crime rate almost halved (136 reported crimes in 1995, roughly 70 reported crimes on average now) and a severe reduction in service calls (from 460 in 1997 to below 300 currently.) More importantly, the resource center is attended by somewhere between 50-70 children and the local elementary school has noted a distinct attitude change toward learning by the young participants.
Finally, the sheriff of McAllen, TX is seeking volunteers for a “posse” that will do research on 225 unsolved murders dating back to 1963. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is seeking skilled labor - especially law enforcement, real estate, or legal experience – to fill 40 volunteer positions related to the effort. According to the posse website (yes, even posses have websites) there are a large number of volunteer posses organized by the sheriff’s office doing a large number of tasks including “child fingerprint and identification details, the graffiti prevention detail, jail wagon, search and rescue, christmas mall patrols, tobacco detail, crime prevention patrols, school security, sexual offender notification, and many others.”
There you have it, from pastors and barbers to family centers and posses, communities are active in creative crime prevention across the country. For more ideas on neighborhood crime prevention and safety visit the Solutions for America website sponsored by the Pew Partnership for Civic Change.