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Eastern North Philadelphia takes center stage at national crime forum as model of police-community collaboration

January 24, 2014

AG Holder, HUD Secy Donovan join local Philly leaders to detail success stories

 

PHILADELPHIA (January 17, 2014) – It may not be a silver bullet, but it’s working:  to reduce crime in Eastern North Philadelphia and other tough neighborhoods across the country, local police and community development groups are collaborating in unprecedented ways—aligning crime reduction with a revitalized “built” environment to make neighborhoods safer and lift the prospects of low-income families.

At a national symposium in New York this week called “Safe Streets, Strong Communities,” Philadelphia law enforcement and nonprofit officials joined cabinet secretaries, police chiefs, local leaders and national advocates to talk about how to expand an approach to crime that replaces dangerous “hot spots” with quality housing, active businesses, and safe spaces for families.

It’s a signature program from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), now at work in 45 cities, that focuses on building strong police-community partnerships and providing the training and funding communities need to develop projects that revive their neighborhoods.  LISC and the Police Foundation led the symposium, which was sponsored by the MetLife Foundation.

“As LISC has consistently shown us, it is imperative that we bring together federal partners, local authorities and community leaders and move forward with policies that effectively allocate limited resources to facilitate long-term success in these communities,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He added that neglected communities must be helped “not just to succeed, but to thrive. At a basic level, we must act on the recognition that all of us are in this together.”

That’s certainly been the case in Eastern North Philadelphia, where police have been collaborating with the nonprofit Asociación Puertorriqueños en Marcha to shift the outlook for the long-troubled 26th District and its 12,000 mostly low-income residents.

“This had been a problem area for decades, traditionally violent and drug-infested,” said Philadelphia Police Captain Michael Cram.  Cram was tasked with improving things 10 years ago, but said he found the job near impossible because police “had no relationships in the area.”

A police-organized community fair helped officers create relationships with residents, which in turn allowed police to identify the “10 percent of the people responsible for 50 percent of the crime,” Cram said. With community help, residents were able to reassert control over the previously neglected and gang-controlled Rainbow de ColoresPark—tapping tenets of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) for the ways to successfully redevelop the park. CPTED offers best practices for how to think about real estate development from a safety perspective.  A year after the project, crime in the surrounding area dropped by nearly 50 percent.

“I would not have been as successful there if not for the men and women we have in the street who believe in this work,” Cram said. “We [police] are not the enemy anymore. Residents took ownership of their community.”

The conference featured similar stories from around the country. And the urgency around growing the impact was clear.  “It’s simply wrong that in too many neighborhoods across this country—no matter how hard a child or their parents work, the single biggest predictor of their life outcomes, even their lifespan, is where they grow up,” said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. “Our nation has the obligation to turn communities with problems into communities with promise.”

Over time, North Philadelphia has benefited from major investments in housing, health care, commercial revitalization, community gardens and parks and education, all of which are helping make the neighborhood safer as well as healthier.

“Community development fights crime,” said Andrew Frishkoff, executive director of LISC Philadelphia, after the conference.  “These are not isolated efforts to develop buildings on one side of the equation or to arrest offenders on the other.  We think of them as part of the same whole that concentrates on making this community a better place for all our neighbors to live.”

For more on the community safety collaboration in Eastern North Philadelphia, visit http://www.sciphilly.org/sci-north.

 

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