Eva Nowakowski-Sims (Barry University)
Topic: Engaging Community in Crime Reduction
Community-based crime prevention efforts highlight the role of community in service delivery and require joint activities by residents, police, and community stakeholders. The FUSION project was developed to reduce the proliferation of crime, increase mutual trust between residents, police, and community stakeholders, and improve the overall safety and quality of life in a South Florida city overwhelmed with crime. The project used a community based participatory research design to explore community voice in the decision-making regarding crime reduction strategies and the collection of crime and neighborhood safety data. Residents supported crime reduction strategies such as community policing to enhance police-resident relationships, saturation patrols in high crime areas, enhanced community engagement and youth programming, and neighborhood beautification through creative placemaking.
A Multidisciplinary, Cross-Sector South End Leadership Council provided leadership, direction, and support. COVID-19 challenges affected the FUSION project; it became impossible to hold any events that brought together groups of people, specifically community forums, community events, and community policing activities. Project findings included: Saturation patrols have been highly effective with reducing robberies/burglaries. Residents reported that crime had decreased in the community because of greater police presence; however, they did identify the need for a better quality of police presence, with officers who were more connected and more culturally competent.
The FUSION project was responsible for two creative place making efforts (tree planting, lighting, benches, and recreation spaces) that integrated art/nature/recreation to improve community safety. Residents are using more community services than they did prior to the project and community engagement and youth programming has increased and is thriving after the pandemic. The FUSION project understood the importance of including the community in their efforts to improve safety and neighborhood quality by enhancing collaboration and trust between residents, law enforcement, and community partners.