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Posts Tagged ‘crime’


Photo: Melissa Lyttle for The New York Times
Noreen McClendon, executive director of Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles, works to create affordable housing and job opportunities. A byproduct: crime reduction.

When people focus on getting “tough on crime,” crime can get worse. Emily Badger writes at the New York Times about research suggesting that people in communities where crime has gone way down since the 1990s “were working hard, with little credit, to address the problem themselves.

“Local nonprofit groups that responded to the violence by cleaning streets, building playgrounds, mentoring children and employing young men had a real effect on the crime rate. That’s what Patrick Sharkey, a sociologist at New York University, argues in a new study and a forthcoming book. Mr. Sharkey doesn’t contend that community groups alone drove the national decline in crime, but rather that their impact is a major missing piece. …

“Between the early 1990s and 2015, the homicide rate in America fell by half. Rates of robbery, assault and theft tumbled in tandem. In New York, Washington and San Diego, murders dropped by more than 75 percent. Although violence has increased over the last two years in some cities, including Chicago and Baltimore, even those places remain safer than they were 25 years ago. …

“This long-term trend has fundamentally altered city life. It has transformed fear-inducing parks and subways into vibrant public spaces. It has lured wealthier whites back into cities. It has raised the life expectancies of black men. …

“The same communities were participating in another big shift that started in the 1990s: The number of nonprofits began to rise sharply across the country, particularly those addressing neighborhood and youth development. …

“Nonprofits were more likely to form in the communities with the gravest problems. But they also sprang up for reasons that had little to do with local crime trends, such as an expansion in philanthropic funding. …

“Comparing the growth of other kinds of nonprofits, the researchers believe they were able to identify the causal effect of these community groups. …

“The research also affirms some of the tenets of community policing: that neighborhoods are vital to policing themselves, and that they can address the complex roots of violence in ways that fall beyond traditional police work. …

“Many similar groups did not explicitly think of what they were doing as violence prevention. But in creating playgrounds, they enabled parents to better monitor their children. In connecting neighbors, they improved the capacity of residents to control their streets. In forming after-school programs, they offered alternatives to crime.

“In the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, the crime rate in the mid 1990s was 18 times the national average. …

“ ‘We knew we wanted to see violence and crime go down in the community,’ said Carol Naughton, who led the foundation for years and today is the president of a national group, Purpose Built Communities, that is trying to teach East Lake’s model in other cities. ‘But we’ve never had a crime-prevention program.’

“Today violent crime in East Lake is down 90 percent from 1995.”

One and one and 50 make a million. As solutions to the world’s problems fail to come top-down, ordinary folks are leading the way. More here.

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The Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence is an outstanding Providence nonprofit that takes a holistic approach to ending violence in poor communities.

On Thursday, I went to an open house and barbecue organized by the students in the Institute’s work program, and was mightily impressed. I shook hands with Mayor Jorge Elorza and chatted at some length with Chief of Police Hugh Clements and the Institute’s executive director, Teny Gross. Not to mention the retired priest who was a founding member, the youth themselves, and the dedicated staff. I heard some pretty inspiring stories!

The young organizers provided a tour of their headquarters, a lovely converted convent on Oxford St.

It was a great event. But here is something sad. In the five years since I visited the Institute’s old quarters, the vagaries of funding sources have forced cutbacks. They no longer have 17 streetworkers turning youth from violence toward work and better lives. They can afford only four. It seems a shame when the need is still significant.

The Institute is advertising for a development director, and they sure need a way to get more support. A big endowment to protect the work from shifts in the winds would be ideal. Read more here.

By the way, Teny Gross has been called to teach nonviolence techniques around the nation and world. He has received many acknowledgments for his success. An unusual honor this month gave him one of his proudest moments. It relates to a George Washington letter about religious tolerance.

“225 years ago, George Washington wrote a letter ‘To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,’ which is now known as the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. To mark the historic importance of the letter, the congregation and the Touro Synagogue Foundation conduct an annual ‘Letter Reading,’ around the time that the letter was sent. The setting is the beautifully restored Touro Synagogue, built in 1763.

“The letter was only four paragraphs long, but they were four powerful and significant paragraphs and they are regarded as critical in the history of the Jewish people in the Colonial United States.  The letter reading evolved into today’s two hour event filled with greetings from dignitaries, announcements of scholarships and an award to Teny Gross, leader in the Institute for the Study of the Practice of Nonviolence.”

Goes to show that teaching nonviolence can spread out in many unexpected ripples.

Read the details here.

Photo: Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence

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Even if, like me, you never got into the TV show “The Wire,” you may know that it was about a troubled section of Baltimore. You also may be interested in a new school there, intended to serve as a real community gathering place.

New York Times design critic Michael Kimmelman has the story.

“In many ways, public schools are gated communities, dead zones,” writes Kimmelman. “They’re shuttered after dark and during the summer, open to parents and students while in session but not to the larger community.

“A new public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods in East Baltimore wants to challenge the blueprint. Designed by Rob Rogers, of Rogers Partners in New York, Henderson-Hopkins, as it’s called, aspires to be a campus for the whole area — with a community center, library, auditorium and gym — as well as a hub for economic renewal.

“This is the neighborhood where parts of ‘The Wire’ were filmed. In 2000, when the city’s mayor convened local business leaders, the vacancy rate was 70 percent. Poverty was twice the city average. Crime, infant mortality and unemployment were all through the roof.

“The idea that emerged — of making the school the centerpiece of a major redevelopment project — is a grand urban experiment. Operated by Johns Hopkins University in collaboration with Morgan State University, the school, which opened in January, belongs to a $1.8 billion plan that also includes new science and technology buildings, a park, retail development and mixed-income housing. While gentrification might threaten to displace the poor, the school is to be the glue that helps bind the district together.” Read more here.

Photo: Matt Roth for The New York Times
Henderson-Hopkins, which shares its library, gym, auditorium, and other features with the surrounding area, is designed to catalyze change in a blighted section of Baltimore.
 

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