Friday, May 31, 2013

It takes a village

Newhallville lighting before changes - photo David Nyberg, Safe Streets Coalition

GUEST BLOG

I just received an interesting link to a recent article published on the website of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. It offers strong contrast to Wendy Sarkissian's experience in New Haven CT  reported here last month. In this excerpt from their article, Julia Ryan and Andrea Pereira, community developers extraordinaire of the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC), offer a remarkable story of success in Newhallville after our SafeGrowth training.
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A collaborative approach to addressing crime can yield remarkable, sustained reductions in crime. It also can produce new housing, businesses, and parks in places where such investment was previously unthinkable, transforming troubled places into vibrant, connected communities.

The strategy is quite straightforward. To tackle crime from multiple angles, you need a team and a plan, preferably one founded on solid information about the genesis of a problem and the conditions keeping it alive. As team members act on the plan, they need to hold each other accountable.

NEWHALLVILLE TURNAROUND

Historically, the Newhallville neighborhood has seen some of New Haven’s worst violence. In early 2011, four of the city’s 10 homicides occurred there. Local leaders recognize that the crime challenges stem from the interconnected problems of blight, fear, drug dealing, and gang activity, so they are pursuing an array of mutually reinforcing solutions.

To guide their diagnosis of Newhallville’s problems, the New Haven team has drawn on training provided by international crime prevention expert Gregory Saville, with support from LISC. SafeGrowth champions a process by which neighborhood leaders, planners, police officers, and others work together to weigh how factors in the physical, social, and economic environment might be altered to make places safe and vibrant.

As part of SafeGrowth, NHS team members have conducted multiple safety audits of problem spots. They have convened residents to talk about persistent issues and have invited input from a journalist familiar with the area. The information complements traditional crime data in painting a picture of problems, including hints at why crime in Newhallville has not yielded to prior interventions.

From website of NHS - Neighborhood Housing Society

Using that framework, NHS and its partners are focusing on Lilac Street, a particularly troubled block. The team’s actions have already contributed to a 50 percent drop in crime by improving lighting and sight lines on Lilac Street. Recently members secured an agreement with the City to add another 230 lights—a sign of how well joint community-police plans are received by municipal decision makers. 

In addition, members are exploring new organizing strategies, including a neighborhood watch and walking groups that increase “eyes on the street” and on properties slated for NHS rehabilitation. New Haven Police are backing the effort with beat officers assigned to Newhallville.

To those who might say that such approaches are too complex to be realistic in resource-strained times, LISC’s response is: Can we afford not to leverage each other’s strengths, especially given the interconnected nature of safety and revitalization?

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