Killing Crime with Kindness

BY LASHONDA COOKS

 

The Dallas Examiner

 

“Nosy neighbors are priceless,” Dallas Police Chief David Brown confided as he weaved through the crowd gathered at Eastgate Baptist Church for the launch of Chief on the Beat–a series of health and safety fairs that bring the chief and fellow police officers deep into the hearts of communities sans their signature cuffs and sirens. Instead, on Jan. 7, the men and women in blue brought popcorn, entertainment, health screenings, trinkets from local organizations and one seemingly simple request: See Something, Say Something.

 “We’re paid to protect you, but you have to help us,” Brown stressed to the crowd milling about the church’s recreation center. 

 58-year-old Adolphus Noel was lured to the fair by the promise of free health screenings.

 “We don’t get ourselves checked for things like diabetes or high blood pressure and a lot of times things just creep up on us,” Noel noted.

 After spotting a flyer for the event at a local McDonald’s, Noel made a pit stop by the church to get his blood sugar and blood pressure checked.

 10-year-old Kendra Williams, who attends Eastgate, simply wanted to get her face painted. After waiting her turn in line, she ran gleefully through the fair, proudly displaying her pink and purple forehead.  Like Williams, many other fair attendees were also members from Eastgate interested in simply seeing what was going on.

 “I am interested in anything that happens in my church and community,” one church member mentioned.

 As she sat alongside with her bagful of freebies collected from some of the vendor tables as she pondered the words of Brown and other officials as they touted the power of community involvement.

 “Just having the chief here really motivates all of us to try and make the Oak Cliff community better. It’s just important to see his face. For him to take his time to come share with us is huge and just motivates me,” she continued.

 That’s the plan. If the event can plant seeds of motivation and engagement in everyone from little Kendra to the health-conscious Mr. Noel, then Chief on the Beat will have done its job.

 “Be involved in your neighborhood. It is your obligation as a citizen of this country to be involved,” Brown reminded the audience.

 The chief’s goal is to at least double the number of active crime watches in the city. Dallas currently has 500. 

 “That’s just not enough for a city of this size,” he stated.

 He calls Chief on the Beat a “starting point” for the department’s plans to add 200 new crime watches to the city every year.

 It is an extension of the department’s 10-70-20 Crime Reduction Program—a program that seeks to reduce crime by rallying nonchalant neighbors into action.

 “I know we make fun of the grandma looking out the blinds at everyone that goes by, but those are the people that protect you from the criminal element,” Brown said.

 According to the police’s Department of Community Affairs, in most communities only 10 percent of residents are actively involved. This tenth does not hesitate to call neighbors when anything seems out of place and hurriedly phones police at the slightest hint of trouble.

 Typically, double that—about 20 percent of a neighborhood’s residents—are the bad apples.

 Studies show that the vast majority of residents in a neighborhood, approximately 70 percent, are simply disengaged. They turn their heads and shut their ears and eyes to any red flags, partially because they’re wary of police, partially because they feel like what happens is simply not their concern.

 “In some communities, talking to the police is considered being a snitch,” Brown noted.

 But such reluctance aids no one but criminals.

 “People who don’t know their neighbors are more subject to being victims of crime because there’s no one looking out for them,” Brown explained.

 Since 2002, the police department has been trying to shift those numbers by targeting that skeptical 70 percent.

 “We want to get the 70 percent [who are] on the sidelines into the game,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings rallied from the Eastgate stage.

 In select high crime communities, patrols have been going from door to door and hosting meetings with residents to get tips and concerns and using that feedback to reduce the area’s crime. In the 50 targeted areas, crime was reduced by average of 18 percent.

 With Chief Brown as its key spokesperson, the police department is partnering with local churches, schools, nonprofit organizations and city departments and taking the message to the masses.

 “I’m leading from the front on this. I want my officers to be out in the community but I’m not going to ask them to do anything I’m not willing to do,” Brown stated.

 Several city officials are throwing their support behind the chief’s community initiative. In addition to an appearance by Mayor Rawlings, Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins and Councilmember Monica Alonzo dropped by. Price and Alonzo weighed in on the significance of such outreach.

 “It makes the community feel as though they are really stakeholders,” Price stated.

  “You’re telling the community that you are here,” Alonzo added. 

 Next month, on Feb. 18, the Chief will be back on the beat again, taking his message of community engagement and involvement up the residents of the Northwest Police Division.

 “In the 21st century, crime fighting has to evolve to engage the community much more than we have in the past. Enforcement alone is reactive: The crime has already occurred. You reduce crime best by preventing it from happening in the first place,” Brown said.

 The next fair’s specific location has not yet been released.             

One Response to “Killing Crime with Kindness”

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  1. Cops & Robbers « The Re-Education of LaShonda - August 19, 2012

    […] Killing Crime with Kindness […]

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