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Community Based Public Safety to Receive Billions in Over-Due Investments; New Report Guides Funders

CBPS Practitioners Reduce Crime and Improve Well-Being in Their Own Communities


Newark, NJ – As federal, state, and local governments prepare to invest in community violence intervention, the Community Based Public Safety (CBPS) Collective (the Collective) released a report to help private funders and the federal team leading this work develop violence prevention strategies and make investments in local community efforts. Last month, the White House announced its goal to invest $5 billion for community-based violence prevention.


Their latest report released today, Community Based Public Safety: Re-defining the Field of Public Safety in America, is intended to help ensure funds are invested wisely and justly.

“As philanthropy and the public sector recognize the work CBPS professionals have been doing for decades, it would be an injustice to bypass the existing practitioners who have been doing this work without adequate compensation for decades,” said Aqeela Sherrills, Executive Director of the Collective. “Just as importantly, the work will be compromised because these are the individuals with the necessary expertise.”


Investments must intentionally focus on including smaller organizations, including those that have been unable to apply for funding because many grants operate on reimbursement or require that an organization has 3 months of operating expenses secured up front.


Community Based Public Safety, or CBPS, is a set of relationship-based, violence prevention and intervention strategies in which community residents are employed and trained as public safety professionals to create safety in their neighborhoods. This “boots on the ground” approach is resident-driven, victim-centered and led by those most impacted by violence. CBPS is a public health response to violence, and the community members doing the work on the ground are public health workers.


CBPS creates safety in communities without an over-reliance on law enforcement, which traditionally offers one blunt instrument to reduce crime: arrest and incarceration. CBPS compliments traditional public safety without the collateral damage caused by the criminal justice system. In fact, the criminal justice system and CBPS are most effective when they operate as parallel strategies, leveraging the strengths of both without insisting that they both be integrated.


As the report details, there are four fundamentals for effective CBPS, and are areas ripe for support from funders, as well as guideposts for organizations to assess where they are and set growth targets for where they want to be. These fundamentals are:


  1. Organizational infrastructure and systems - CBPS organizations often start as passion projects; however, to position the work for growth and sustainability, key organizational systems and practices must be in place.

  2. Community leadership buy-in and support - Legitimacy to do the work in the community is critical and serves as the organization’s license to operate as a violence interruption organization.

  3. Staffing and professional development - CBPS organizations must commit themselves to continuous growth and improvement and provide ongoing professional development to build the capacity of frontline workers.

  4. Strategies and program implementation - CBPS employs evidence-based strategies and programming, while piloting innovation to further inform the field.

“One of the important lessons learned as part of this research is that funders need to engage local violence prevention leaders to help assess proposals,” said Elizabeth Ruebman, Managing Director of the Collective. “Their insights, as practitioners, can shed light on the potential for applicants and identify areas where funders can add even more value in building capacity in the field.”


The report lays out recommendations that should be addressed in any Requests for Proposals for CBPS work, including:

  • Does the organization have at least a 3-5 year track record of doing violence prevention work in the community?

  • Are most of the staff leadership and staff from the specific neighborhoods they serve? Is the organization rooted within the community, not just in the city?

  • Does this organization have credibility with those most likely to be a victim or perpetrator of violence? What are their staff’s lived experiences?

  • Do they have any coordination with law enforcement? Even if not successful, have they tried? (Note: Many law enforcement agencies are hostile to CBPS or insist on deference and CBPS organizations should not be penalized for not having a relationship with law enforcement if this is the case.)

“Public safety is created by investing in the people and organizations within the community,” said Rob McGowan, National Training and Technical Assistance Director for the Collective. “Funding should be prioritized for organizations who share this value and have demonstrated their efforts to build capacity within the impacted community.”


The CBPS Collective is documenting emerging professional standards and best practices. For this report, funded by the Open Philanthropy Project Fund, the Collective conducted one-on-one, in depth interviews with 25 experts in CBPS to inform a snapshot of the state of CBPS in America. The Collective then conducted two half-day retreats with additional expert contributors in order to develop the fundamentals discussed below. The report follows the Collective’s national scan of CBPS initiatives across the country released earlier this year.


The CBPS Collective

The Collective is a made up of experts in building neighborhood leadership to advance safety -- the groups on the ground that do the work day in and day out to mediate conflict, get people in crisis into supportive services and put youth on a path away from violence and to stability. They represent and support the dozens of small, nonprofit, community-led grassroots organizations that, for decades, have been helping to forge peace, with little support or official recognition from policymakers, elected officials or funding agencies. The Collective’s members are the premier national experts in the field, led by Executive Director Aqeela Sherrills and Managing Director Elizabeth Ruebman. The Collective has convened to preserve the integrity of the model and highlight Black and Brown practitioners' proven practices, and will help CBPS rapidly build the infrastructure, capacity and support needed to scale with public funding. https://cbpscollective.org/

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