Mayor Eric Garcetti joined Newark Mayor Ras Baraka Thursday to speak about their cities’ efforts toward community-based policing and announce the nation’s first association of community-based public safety and violence prevention programs.
The Community Based Public Safety Association will consist of leaders and organizations from major U.S. cities and will work to connect efforts from throughout the country that help advance pathways toward safety, and complement policing and reforms to the criminal justice system on a national level.
The association will release a national study on various community-based safety programs, how they work to reduce violence and how they can brought to scale.
“We saw a historic call on the streets of America that enough is enough, and don’t just keep reforming, it is time to completely change the way that we look at things and to do that with all parties present,” Garcetti said during the announcement, which was hosted by Alliance for Justice and Safety, a national organization that works to reform justice policy and advance safety priorities.
Garcetti spoke about the successes that community-based safety programs in Los Angeles have had, including the Gang Reduction Youth Development program, which has expanded by 50% during his time as mayor. The program offers wraparound services to young people, and teams communicate with youth to find out their families’ needs, hear the trauma that they’ve experienced and help them through counseling, job training, referrals and other methods.
“You cannot build community from outside in, these (GRYD teams) are folks from the neighborhood, people who have served time, who have been criminal justice-involved, who have struggled, who have faced trauma and who can connect with a young person in a way that other people cannot,” Garcetti said.
The mayor cited the an internal study that credited GRYD workers with preventing 109 gang-related retaliatory homicides and 349 gang-aggravated assaults over a period of four years. He added that he hopes these community-based programs will be expanded into career professions.
“I think police officers can appreciate that this work means something that they don’t have to respond to when it’s successful,” he said.
Baraka, who has been mayor of Newark since 2014, also said he sees the work of community-based safety and violence prevention as relieving officers of some of the tension and stress that they have with communities.
“Usually police departments are tasked with being in communities to solve social ills that have been in our communities for decades, and they’re just not equipped to do so and some of them come with the lack of training and sensitivity to be able to deal with these communities in the first place,” he said.
He added that police presences do not equate to community safety.
“If you look at the neighborhoods that are quote-unquote safe neighborhoods, these are not neighborhoods with a proliferation of police on every corner … these are neighborhoods with solid families, with jobs that are available, with decent educational systems, where social services are provided, where a community has the resources that it needs to deal with the issues that it has in the community,” he said.