Safe Passages is a program that communities across the country have used with great success to ensure that their children are able to get to and from school safely. Other communities’ programs have divergent models, but often rely on law enforcement or parent volunteers at key corners, monitoring environmental or traffic hazards that endanger children.
The innovation of Urban Peace Institute’s Safe Passages project is to integrate a powerful network of parent volunteers with the professional efforts of gang violence interventionists, community-based organizations, businesses, school personnel, the Mayor’s office and law enforcement.
This comprehensive effort will keep children safe, with interventionists and police collaborating with volunteers monitoring street action before and after school; community-based organizations and the school district providing coordination and family support; and teachers providing safety curriculum in the classroom. In addition, the LAUSD has agreed to work with the Safe Passages project to create and distribute multilingual public education materials about ensuring safety in and around schools, as well as provide teachers with the training necessary to implement anti-violence curriculum.
Read our report on Best Practices to Address Violence in Schools here
Find out more about our work in Belmont and Watts here
Less than a decade ago in L.A.’s Watts neighborhood, residents were unlikely to interact with police in a positive way and rarely ventured outside of their homes due to lack of safety.
But today we hear stories about neighborhood children chasing police officers to hug them, and grandmothers, who are finally enjoying their front steps for the first time, waving and blowing kisses at police officers like they are part of their family.
For residents of Watts’ public housing developments, this ongoing transformation towards a safer community has been successful in large part due to the unique and historic collaboration known as the Community Safety Partnership (CSP). Using our unique comprehensive violence reduction model rooted in a public health approach, this cross-sector effort addresses the intractable root issues such as gang violence, public sector inattention, shifting racial demographics and strained community relationships with law enforcement in Watts.
What began as an experiment to transform this violence-ridden community, the Community Safety Partnership is now a sustainable and widely successful program that uplifts community voices in the often-overlooked neighborhood of Watts.
In response to President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative announced February 27, 2014, we developed a set of recommendations that we believe will help improve outcomes for our boys and young men of color.
Community safety is of paramount importance to boys and men of color. Boys and men of color are more likely to be victims of violence, with young Black men 10 times more likely and young Latino men 3 times more likely to be killed by guns than young White men. There is a need to adopt a comprehensive, public health-based, community safety strategy to reverse this trend.
Police play a big role in why youth of color are disproportionately and unnecessarily tracked into the juvenile justice system. Individual law enforcement personnel have significant discretion in how they handle each contact with youth – they can choose to cite and bring them into the juvenile justice system or divert them to alternatives. There is a need to encourage police to divert as many youth as possible, instead of citing or arresting them.
In Los Angeles, we have seen dramatic decreases in violence and improved law enforcement-community relationships (including with youth). This has resulted from training and support for relationship-based policing that enhances awareness about youth development and diversion opportunities through community resources. Only 1% of basic training in police academies is spent on juvenile justice issues (Source: Strategies for Youth, If Not Now, When?: A Survey of Juvenile Justice Training, 2014). There is a need for mandated training for law enforcement officers throughout the country, but especially for those working in communities of color. This can significantly decrease inappropriate and unnecessary entry of youth of color into the juvenile justice system.
We have worked with The California Endowment’s Sons & Brothers campaign from its inception. We are leading the “Youth Back on Track” and “Youth Safety” component of the campaign, and also informing the policy agenda for legislative reforms at the State level.
We are excited that the Obama Administration sees the importance of addressing the many ways in which young boys and men of color are tracked into the justice system.
President Obama signed an executive order to create the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Among the esteemed members, is our own Connie Rice. The task force engaged with federal, state, tribal, and local officials; technical advisors; young leaders; and nongovernmental organizations to provide a transparent process to engage with the public.
The President's Executive Order directed the task force to prepare a report and recommendations to be presented to the President. An initial report will be due to the President in March. Read the full statement here.
On March 2nd, the initial report was released, which provides recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust and examine, among other issues, how to foster strong, collaborative relationships between local law enforcement and the communities they protect. Access the report here.