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Community Based Public Safety: Centering the Public in Violence Prevention and Community Wellness

by Shaun D. Emerson

Executive Summary

Public safety is one of the most important considerations for government and its citizenry. Communities across the nation spend huge amounts of their budgets on policing yet are still plagued by community violence. Although violence effects urban, suburban and rural communities alike, and is present across socio-economic factors, we know that community violence disproportionately burdens certain communities more than others – predominately low- income, Black, Brown and other marginalized populations.

In 1979, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that violence was a major public health priority and should not be ignored in addressing the nation’s health. Violence has multiple effects for individuals, families and communities. In addition to the direct victim of a violent act, violence has traumatic effects for those individuals that witness violence, as well as those in the community that hear about it. Violence is a leading cause of death and injury in the United States, with adolescents being especially at risk. In addition to the immediate and long-term physical, emotional, psychological, and developmental effects of community violence on individuals and communities, there are the economic and societal costs to communities and the nation.

As the nation attempts to address community violence, social justice, and a reimagining of public safety and the role of policing in America, it has become clear that as a society we call upon police to handle many of the community’s needs that are beyond their expertise and the role that police should be expected to play in our society. This over-reliance on police has caused harmful consequences for communities and police and contributed to a distrust between residents and government in general.

Community Based Public Safety is a clearly defined strategy to reduce community violence and improve community wellness. It is a multi-pronged relationship-based model that employs and trains community members to create safety in their own neighborhoods.

This paper presents:

  • Current approaches to addressing community violence and public safety and how it differs from what the public wants regarding public safety and community wellness.

  • Community Based Public Safety as a public centered public health approach by trained professionals from the community to decrease community violence and increase community wellness without the harmful consequences and inequity of current approaches.

  • How government leaders, policymakers, and funders can support Community Based Public Safety.

Download the full paper (PDF).

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