Defining a Safe Community
What defines a safe community? Over the last decade, UNCG’s Center for Youth, Family, and Community Partnerships (CYFCP) and the Office of Research and Economic Development have worked with the High Point community and the state of North Carolina to reduce violent crime and recidivism through focused deterrence, which focuses law enforcement and community resources on the small number of violent offenders who commit the majority of violent crime in a community. Since the late 1990’s, UNCG has worked with law enforcement, government partners, and faith-based and social service organizations to implement a focused deterrence model across four initiatives:
- drug markets
- chronic violent offenders
- gang/group violence
- domestic violence
As a recent evolution of this work, the North Carolina Network for Safe Communities was established at UNCG and serves as an information and resource sharing network for law enforcement, resource providers and other community partners engaged in focused deterrence work in the State of North Carolina.
In High Point, NC in 2004, the Drug Market Initiative (DMI), often referred to as the “High Point Model”, was implemented and worked to completely shut down targeted open air drug markets seemingly overnight. Using a focused deterrence strategy characterized by law enforcement and community partnerships, a clear message was delivered to selected drug dealers that the dealing had to stop. The most violent dealers were arrested prior to the call-in and they served as an example to notify offenders. Cases were banked against non-violent offenders and during notifications, and it was made clear that the community cares for the offenders, but rejected their conduct. Resources were made available for those who wanted them, and were notified that continued drug dealing would result in the activation of banked cases against offenders.
Nontraditional enforcement methods to combat drug markets have historically taken a heavy toll on police-community relations. But, the new focused approach of notifying the small number of dealers who drive overt drug markets has been able to nearly eliminate this type of market with low level of arrest and prosecution, helping to rebuild community-police relations. Since the launch of the DMI, similar drug market initiatives have succeeded in locales nationwide (e.g., Providence, RH, Hempstead, NY, and Nashville, TN).
Concurrent with the work on focused deterrence, UNCG has served as the research partner for NC’s Middle Judicial District’s implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN). PSN is a nationwide commitment to reduce gun violence by networking law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, and resources. In this role, UNCG has partnered with the US Attorney to implement focused deterrence strategies across 11 sites in North Carolina, assisting with data collection and analysis and providing professional development and technical assistance for evidence-based practices in reducing the number of chronic violent offenders. Additionally, ten sites in North Carolina were funded through the NC Governor’s Crime Commission to implement a focused deterrence initiative aimed at reducing violence committed by groups and gangs as opposed to individuals. UNCG uses data gathering and analysis to drive and evaluate the success of the strategy, providing training and technical assistance in collaboration with community partners, faith-based leaders, and law enforcement.
The most recent outgrowth of this longstanding partnership, the Offender Focused Domestic Violence Initiative (OFDVI) uses focused deterrence to address domestic violence. The OFDVI strategy represents for the first time anywhere, the application of the evidence-based focused deterrence approach to the problem of domestic violence and a shift to an offender focus in combating domestic violence. By focusing on the offender, the OFDVI strategy attempts to avoid re-victimization of victims by alleviating systematic barriers in the judicial process. In the spring of 2014, these efforts will be enhanced with the establishment of the Victims Justice Center, which is housed in the High Point Center for Children and Families. Created with support from the City of High Point, the United Way of Greater High Point, UNCG, and the High Point Police Department, the Center will bring police, legal and counseling services together in one location to aid victims of domestic violence.
This over 15 year relationship between UNCG and the High Point community, NC Middle Judicial District, the US Attorney’s Office and multiple communities across the state of North Carolina is an excellent example of what can be accomplished when universities commit their resources (e.g., faculty expertise, graduate and undergraduate student efforts, ability to garner grants to fund community efforts) in partnership with community stakeholders. In addition to the significant and sustained reduction in crime, the positive influences on the lives of the offender, their families, and communities, these efforts provide an essential training ground for undergraduate and graduate students who have participated in these efforts. Students from a wide variety of disciplines (e.g., psychology, sociology, human development, education, social work, economics), across professional and liberal arts degree programs from bachelors to doctoral (e.g., B.A., B.S., M.A., M.S., Ph.D.) have been intricately involved in all aspects of this history. From attending community meetings to hear concerns, to conducting focus groups, analyzing crime data, reporting back to community on progress, students develop a unique set of skills from these experiences that have resulted in their presenting at national conferences, having publications, and employment from leading nonprofits to higher education.
For more information, visit http://ncnsc.uncg.edu/.
Written by Kristin Medlin, ICEE Communications and Partnerships Manager