(NC)-During my term as Chair of the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention, I have a visited cities in the United States, England and Belgium to discuss successful crime reduction strategies with local crime prevention officials. One thing that struck me was how similar their experiences were. In each city there was a serious crime problem, a focussed response and a substantial improvement in both the reality and the perception of safety.
Although there are no "one-size-fits-all" solutions, there are common elements at work, chief among them a willingness to involve the community in a meaningful way. As one Chief of Police observed, "I [used to think] that the police fought crime alone and that the community could only get in the way. Now we've got it right. We understand that in order to prevent crime and keep our community safe, we've got to involve the community as our partner."
Jack Calhoun, President and CEO of the U.S. National Crime Prevention Council has identified six factors that were present in successful American city programs, even though actual strategies differed. They are:
- A belief that all key municipal entities must play a role in cutting crime and violence. Schools, businesses, municipal government and social services must all work together.
- The need to engage in specific, trackable actions. Cities need to have clear data on what the problems are, where they are and what's causing them. They need to know what's working and what isn't in order to use resources effectively.
- The courage to do business differently and to share power. Giving up "turf," while difficult, is essential to working together.
- A dual commitment to targeted enforcement and prevention - things like after school programs and mentoring. Law enforcement resources must be deployed consistently with broader crime prevention objectives.
- A commitment to the long term. This is a challenge when some offer instant solutions, but helping young people build better lives doesn't happen overnight.
- And, as Calhoun puts it, "Clear, passionate, hands-on commitment from the leading policy-makers, prime among them the Mayor and the Chief of Police."
Leadership; working together; identifying problems and then attacking them; measuring results; doing business differently; being tough on crime and equally tough on the causes of crime . . . these are the factors that we witness everyday in projects and communities throughout Canada. They produce positive changes here, just as they do in countries around the world.
For details on how Canadian towns and cities are working together to reduce and prevent crime, and how your community can get involved, visit www.crime-prevention.org.
Barbara Hall, is Chair of Canada's National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention.