Reclaimation & Rehabilitation of High Crime Residential Communities
In the early 1990’s, we were approached by a number of troubled apartment communities seeking a solution. These crime-ridden communities had previously tried it all (e.g., off-duty police, private security firms, etc.), but none provided any substantial or lasting reduction in crime.
We approached the situation with a new strategy aimed at removing criminal presence while proactively addressing physical disorders and actively networking with residents as a means of building social capital. The results were quickly apparent and CIS earned a reputation as the company to call when all other options had failed.
Since those early days, we have refined and implemented our strategy in hundreds of distressed communities. The success of the program in reducing crime and increasing community quality of life has been extensively documented by police, academic institutions and think tanks, and news organizations including The Wall Street Journal, ABC World News Tonight, Fox News, Spiegel Television, Courrier International, and numerous other media outlets throughout the U.S.
Crime, by nature, is a social problem. Classic crime prevention and security strategies can reduce vulnerability to criminal activity, but rarely impact the underlying factors that contribute to the cycle of crime. Likewise, today’s 911-focused policing model is largely reactive in approach with little influence on the complex web of conditions contributing to social disorder, distrust of authorities, and criminal activity.
Unlike reactive policing and security models that only address one dimension of the problem, our approach to restoring order in high crime communities is designed to holistically address the full spectrum of social dynamics contributing to crime, social disorder, and community quality of life.
At the core of our methodology is the Community and Character Based Protection Initiative™ (CCBPI). CCBPI considers the community as a whole, not just as a random collection of individual parts or even as a sum of parts. It recognizes that all elements of the community interact to give the community its particular “personality.” Collectively, residents, law enforcement and public agencies, businesses, and property managers, all interact to shape the community. CCBPI focuses on building relationships between these stakeholders and coordinating action toward the common purpose of reducing environmental and social conditions that contribute to crime.
Successful implementation of our methodology involves parallel implementation of Preventative Interaction and Proactive Intervention strategies and methods.
Preventative Interaction lays the foundation for community growth and long-term crime reduction through a variety of techniques designed to specifically engender social capital—the personal investment by community members in the betterment of their own community. Preventative Interaction centers on establishing trust, relationships, and connection among community members to empower the community and strengthen its social capital. High levels of trust and citizen participation operate through a variety of mechanisms to produce socially desirable outcomes. The mechanisms, circumstances, and outcomes vary; but in general, social capitol has many features to help people translate aspirations into realities.
Strong social capitol within a community ultimately equates to lower crime rates. The more interaction and networking that occur within a community, the less the possibility of victimization exists. In essence, the better community members know each other, the more they are apt to care for and watch over each other and the less likely they are to victimize one another.
Preventative Interaction approaches lay the foundation of trust that is critical to a community’s wellbeing. It involves measures designed to yield lasting results by building and maintaining social networks that strengthen community fiber and boost social capital investment.
Criminologists universally agree that the key to making long-term reductions in crime is rehabilitation and stabilization of the afflicted community. Over the past 40 years, numerous programs and models for crime prevention through community building have been developed. However, to date, the majority of these community-based programs have proven unsuccessful in achieving substantial or lasting results. The poor success of these initiatives can often be traced to a single issue—failure to remove the existing conditions that perpetuate the cycle of crime.
Proactive Intervention is the process of identifying and neutralizing influences within a community that deteriorate its fiber and social capital. Criminal activities that contribute to fear in the community are surgically targeted in cooperation with law enforcement. Nuisance behaviors which contribute to criminal confidence (e.g., noise complaints, loitering, vagrancy, outdoor alcohol and drug use, etc.) are managed and minimized wherever possible. And problematic physical conditions (e.g., lighting, landscaping, etc.) are addressed to reduce opportunity for crime and reinforce the appearance of an orderly environment.
The strategic benefits of Proactive Intervention are two-fold. First, decreased criminal presence. Second (and just as important), reduced fear of victimization. This clears the way for Preventative Interaction to take root.
Phase One (“Reclamation”) begins with targeting high profile criminal activity and quality of life issues with direct influence on resident fear and criminal confidence. It is based on the premise that before any prevention effort can be successful, a coordinated intervention is often necessary to break the grip criminals psychologically hold over the community.
During Phase One, highly visible criminal activity by officers employing a patrol deployment and operational method called Symmetry Targeted Oriented Patrolling™ (STOP). STOP operations target criminal activity in addition to nuisance and quality of life issues which contribute to criminal confidence and feelings of isolation in the community.
Officers assigned to STOP operations receive specialized training in the dynamics of dysfunctional communities, interpersonal relations, the criminal activity matrix, methods for applying psychological pressure on criminals and predatory actors, implementation of shock techniques, and other issues in order to enhance their effectiveness at targeting the community’s unique problems.
The deployment of STOP Team officers usually begins with a strong focus on specific types of criminal activity that require immediate remedy. This is necessary to gain effective control over nuisance problems and subsequent community participation. Criminal activity is addressed by order of priority, as determined by a preceding threat assessment. Criminal activity that involves organized gangs, for example, would take precedent over unorganized drug sales that occur in the open. Next, open drug sales would be prioritized over prostitution, and so on. Once these types of highly visible activities are removed, the focus and attention of officers shifts to the underlying elements contributing to decline and deterioration.
Some of the nuisance problems addressed by Symmetry Targeted Oriented Patrolling include open alcohol consumption, loud music, loitering, abandoned cars, juvenile mischief, trespassing, vagrancy, etc.
After non-resident criminals have been largely cleared from the environment, Phase Two begins. Phase Two (Networking) shifts focus to the eviction of problem residents and networking children within the intervention area.
During the initial development of our methodology, we discovered that the easiest access point to initiate relationships in residential environments are the children of the community. In essence, children are the “path of least resistance” with the fewest misconceptions about uniforms, race, and have the least amount of distrust or ill feelings towards authorities.
As part of this preventative interaction strategy, officers implement a playful personality, using stickers, treats, curiosity “show and tell” sessions with equipment, playing basketball or throwing football, and whatever other activity provides opportunity for prosocial interaction with kids.
Officers distribute fun items such as junior officer stickers and removable tattoos with the agency patch as a design. Officers spend time giving advice, helping with homework, or just generally “shooting the breeze.”
These officers are on patrol in the child’s own housing environment where the child feels the safest and most comfortable—not in a school or boys and girls club. This approach allows the child to feel comfortable and safe to develop relationships with the “police” because the “police” live in the same community and interact with them every day as part of their living environment.
Over time this solidifies a bond with the child to the point where genuine trust is earned.
The Networking phase establishes the groundwork for Phase Three, “Anchoring.” This phase is a natural progression of relationship development from the Network Phase.
Through the children, officers become familiar with brothers, sisters, friends, mothers, fathers, and other family members. In Phase Three, officers are directed to network with residents (specifically, parents) through the children. And through a natural process of social network expansion, parents begin to interact with officers. Many who were shy or avoidant start viewing officers through the eyes of their child who has been positively interacting with the officers. Children talk about officers around the dinner table. They talk about them when they show their parents their creative style in their coloring books. They talk about officers spending time with them and how nice they are.
Anchoring, in Phase Three, focuses on solidifying the officer’s relationship with the families of the community. As bonds develop between officers and families, a drastic change occurs in the community’s attitude towards “law enforcement.”
Once relationships with the children and their parents solidify, genuine trust begins to evolve. Children and parents start reporting criminal activity that they observe. Residents start giving officers tips and information and the “code of silence” in the community which allowed criminals to operate with impunity begins to break.
During this stage, officers become familiar with extended family members and regular guests of residents. This aids in determining who actually belongs in the intervention area and who does not. Naturally, this approach requires that officers are assigned exclusively to specific communities–not rotated from one location to another. Relationship building is an investment of patience and time. Yet when the investment matures, yields great dividends in social capital.
As the relationship between the officers and community solidifies, attention is focused in improving the level of trust and rapport between community residents. Through various formal and informal methods, officers strive to introduce residents to each other, promote dialogue, and increase the community’s sense of unity.
This approach has proven so effective that mothers have even turned in their sons for crimes. This is a strong testimony to their trust in the officers’ honesty and integrity. With effective policies, proper personnel selection, realistic training, and a true commitment to proactive prevention, officers are able to create real and lasting change in even the direst communities.
Following are videos by news media outlets and documentary filmmakers focusing on our methods in practice.
In this video, Critical Intervention Services and the Orland Police Department assist a community regain control and end the downward spiral of quality of life in a long neglected community. After a short news spotlight, view documentary footage from the STOP Team deployment. Witness the residents’ reactions and the difference CIS and OPD made in the lives of a community where neglect and victimization were an expected part of daily life. This video demonstrates a multi-faceted approach to quickly effecting drastic changes within a community and improving the quality of life from the first day of deployment.
Second documentary video of the STOP Team Operation at Bordeaux Apartments in Orlando.
Cimmarron Apartments STOP Team Deployment
Fox 13 Tampa Bay News Segment
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