Ways Communities Can Lower Crime
When it comes to lowering crime rates, law enforcement is only part of the equation. There are important ways that communities can help reduce crime.
Strong Social Ties
Communities where people have strong social ties have lower rates of violent crime. In these communities, people look out for their neighbors, which creates a sense of safety and trust.
Shared public facilities in the community, such as parks, recreation centers, and community centers, can play an important role in forging ties among community residents. If these places are seen as unsafe, turning them into hubs for community activities may require several steps. For example:
- Police intervention can reduce and deter crime in public spaces by focusing on chronic offenders and on spots with the most criminal activity.
- Community organizations, government officials, and individual residents can become involved in fixing up parks and public buildings.
- Encouraging community members to come together to do volunteer work in these hubs will strengthen their ties to the community and to each other.
The U.S. Department of Justice encourages youth to become involved in crime prevention in their communities. Some of the ideas that the DOJ offers for projects that young people can plan and implement are
- producing anti-drug radio public service announcements aimed at their peers;
- working in groups on community clean-up projects;
- helping senior citizens with their errands;
- repairing playgrounds;
- performing plays, videos, puppet shows, or other forms of entertainment that encourage younger kids to avoid drugs; and
- getting training in mediation and helping others resolve their differences.
Forging stronger social ties with neighbors, using public spaces, and planning or working on volunteer projects within the community all help knit together a strong social fabric. When people feel proud of their communities and are actively involved in making their communities better, they have a strong incentive to ensure their communities are safe,
The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice
Another way that communities can help lower crime is to resolve tensions between local residents and law enforcement. The U.S. Attorney General has said that he believes “forging strong bonds and establishing trust between America’s law enforcement officials and the communities we serve is critical to maintaining the public safety gains we have achieved in recent years.”
The National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, which the DOJ announced in September 2014, will test and evaluate strategies designed to build trust between residents and police. When community members and law enforcement officials work together in a spirit of cooperation and mutual trust, everyone benefits, and communities become safer places to live and to work.
Wave of the Future
Students pursuing degrees in criminology and criminal justice will learn more about the cutting-edge research and pilot programs that demonstrate how residents can make their own communities safer. Interest in community-based crime-reduction programs is likely to continue to be strong in the immediate and intermediate-term future, as many of these programs are not only cost-effective but also give local residents a feeling of control over their own communities and lives.