Despite rising violence in cities spurred by the pandemic, national study shows community-based violence reduction programs continue to improve safety
(March 25, 2021) New York, NY – Big city mayors from across America joined leading community safety experts on Thursday to announce the formation of a first-in-the-nation association of community-based public safety and violence prevention programs.
The Community Based Public Safety (CBPS) Collective will be comprised of key leaders and organizations representing major U.S. cities, connecting efforts from across the country to help advance pathways to safety that complement policing and reform the criminal justice system at a national scale. The CBPS Collective will work to secure increased support to fund and build the capacity of public health-based violence prevention programs, which are essential to achieving and reimagining safety, especially in low-income communities and communities of color. As part of its efforts, CBPS will educate policymakers, elected and appointed leaders, and the public about the critical role community-based public safety organizations play in reducing violence, while working to professionalize the sector’s workforce through employment benefits and professional development.
To ignite its efforts, CBPS released a national study – Redefining Public Safety in America: A National Scan of Community Based Public Safety Initiatives – that details the various programs, how they work to reduce violence, and what is needed to bring them to scale. The timing of the report provides cities that are grappling with the increase of violence due to the economic instability of the pandemic with a roadmap for effective strategies to reduce violence and create healthy and safe communities at a fraction of the cost of traditional criminal justice and policing approaches.
“Most people think of police when they hear the words ‘public safety,’ however the public execution of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police has created an inflection point on safety in our country,” said Aqeela Sherrills, the Executive Director of the Community Based Public Safety Association, and a pioneer in the field. “If we understand violence as a public health issue, then we must equip those who are closest in proximity to the disease with the skills, tools and resources to prevent the spread and eradicate the root causes that lead to violence.”
The Community Based Public Safety Association launched with support from Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose administrations have invested important and significant seed funding in community-based public safety approaches in their respective cities. Together, the Mayors and coalition of organizations involved in CBPS will call on City, State and Federal officials to dedicate resources, including newly received funding from the American Rescue Plan to invest in community based public safety initiatives, like those outlined in the report. Examples include The Newark Community Street Team, CURE Violence, Advance Peace and The Urban Peace Institute, which have been demonstrated to increase public safety and reduce violence through a coordinated response with law enforcement.
“Newark has strategically invested in complimentary community-based public safety and public health responses to support police in reducing violence and crime, and our city is the safest it’s been in decades,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “In June 2020, the City made an unprecedented decision to move 5% of the city’s public safety budget into a new Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery to provide additional support for community-based public safety solutions like the Newark Community Street Team, Newark Street Academy and the West Ward Victims Outreach Initiative that prevent and reduce violence by treating it as a public health issue.”
“When we invest in community-based public safety strategies, our cities are safer, our neighborhoods are more secure, our families face less violence, and our workers find greater opportunity,” said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “Los Angeles is proud to stand on the leading edge of evidence-based solutions, rooted in equity and justice, led by our groundbreaking Gang Reduction and Youth Development initiative -- and we will keep investing in innovative programs in our city and advocating for smarter policies across our country, because we know the returns will be exponential and the result will be a stronger future for all Americans."
In addition to the mayors, the CBPS Collective was joined for the launch by report co-authors and leading community based public safety practitioners,Dr. Gary Slutkin of CURE Violence Global (CVG), Melvyn Hayward of Chicago CRED, Dr. Aquil Basheer of Professional Community Intervention Training Institute (PCITI), Julius Thibodeaux of Advance Peace (AP),and Fernando Rejon of Urban Peace Institute (UPI). They lead organizations that support, train and advise community based public safety initiatives in dozens of cities across the country.
Gary Slutkin, MD, Founder and CEO of Cure Violence Global stated: “Even in the face of some remarkable successes, public health approaches to community safety have been greatly underfunded by government and philanthropy. Even philanthropy, with rare but glowing exceptions, remains still almost solely focused on justice reform rather than the complementary public health and community alternatives.These successful alternatives save lives in our communities, and save money for our cities, states and all of us. We’re long overdue to turn this corner.”
The Community Based Public Safety(CBPS) Collective is a new umbrella organization for community based public safety organizations. It aims to provide access to health insurance,life insurance and retirement benefits for Outreach Workers.The association will clearly define what goes into this work, professionalize the field and inform the public and policymakers about community-based public safety as key to violence prevention. CBPS will support those in the field with fundraising and uniform data collection.include The Newark Community Street Team, CURE Violence, Advance Peace and The Urban Peace Institute, which have been demonstrated to increase public safety and reduce violence through a coordinated response with law enforcement.
COMMUNITY-BASED PUBLIC SAFETY FACT SHEET
Community-based public safety and violence prevention programs in communities hardest hit by violence across the country—like Newark, Los Angeles, Baton Rouge and Chicago—are effectively redefining who is responsible for public safety.They address violent crime as a disease and offer community members the tools needed to interrupt the cycle of violence while improving the quality of life and well being for all its members.The community-based public safety model creates safety without an over-reliance on law enforcement, rejecting arrests and incarceration as the only solutions to reduce violence or crime.In this relationship-based model,residents are employed and trained as public safety professionals to create safety in their own neighborhoods. They remain separate entities, but often work in complement with law enforcement.By directly investing in the community and its residents,coordinating multiple service providers to respond to the needs of responsible parties and victims/survivors alike,putting survivors at the center of public safety strategy,creating culturally appropriate healing spaces,and developing authentic community empowerment, the community-based initiatives achieve sustainable safety.
Redefining Public Safety in America Report
The national study on community based public safety programs across the country – Redefining Public Safety in America: A National Scan of Community Based Public Safety Initiatives– was conducted in the fall of 2020to fill a gaping hole in the public’s knowledge of this under-utilized solution to violence in communities.The report included the following findings about the community-based public safety model:
It has been operating in communities with intense violence for decades,remains under-resourced,and is frequently undermined by law enforcement.
There are more than200 initiatives operating cost effective, life-saving programs in dozens of cities through out the U.S., including most major cities.
The model has both evidence-based results and community support, demonstrating an effectiveness at preventing violence. Its impact is felt and witnessed by the community and local law enforcement.
Many organizations employing the model emerge as a response to personal trauma. They are very often founded, led and supported by people who have lost a loved one to violence, have caused harm themselves and wish to repent, or who simply cannot witness anymore loss of life in their communities.
While the model may have originated as a do-it-yourself movement, and has numerous subtle modifications, the work long ago evolved into a profession that requires intensive and ongoing training.
The report also identified the following priorities to expand community-based public safety programs to scale:
Increase Funding: Programs are substantially and significantly under-resourced, with funds rarely available for general operating expenses. This under-resourcing is a direct continuation of systemic racism in America, with the effort of people of color to help other people of color not being valued.
Strengthen Organizational Infrastructure: While many practitioners have mastered the basics of organizational management, there is a tremendous need amongst organizations for capacity building.
Educate Public Agencies: Law enforcement and other public agencies sometimes see these programs as a threat and will attack the concept and its practitioners.Education about this community-based approach is needed at all policy and practice levels, including but not limited to law enforcement.
Provide Adequate Support for Professionals: Practitioners work long hours often for suboptimal pay in jobs that too often may be devoid of benefits. The nature of the work is traumatizing,and resources to support the trauma and re-traumatization experienced by them is limited at best. For many of the workers, it is frequently their first in the above ground economy, whether due to previous incarceration or other reasons. These new professionals need both training and support services.
Prioritize Data and Participatory Research: It is essential that all research about the programs be community-based participatory research (CBPR) so that research practices are properly vetted,organizations can be credited and compensated fairly for their data and research, and evaluation can create career paths for community-based public safety professionals beyond“street work.”Community safety workers are best able to collect field data inaccessible to non-indigenous researchers.