Community Partnerships Showing Promise to Prevent and Reduce Crime

The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) released a report on completion of a Pilot Cities Project, in which the City of Mesa was selected to participate. The project, Intelligence-Led Community Policing, Community Prosecution, and Community Partnerships (IL3CP), employed innovative techniques to combat crime and improve the quality of life for people in higher crime areas. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) is proud to have joined with the Mesa Police Department, Mesa City Prosecutor and others as project participants.

The IL3CP Project proved the concept that a community-based approach to policing and prosecution can lead to significant improvements in public safety and quality of life for residents. Through this project we learned valuable lessons and made significant changes to the way we approach policing and prosecution in Maricopa County.

The project area chosen in Mesa is a community known as the Doran Corridor, a densely populated area with mostly low-income households that has a long history of violence, property crimes, gang activity and drug and alcohol-related crimes. The area also included a sizeable percentage of people believed to be non-legal residents, and therefore possibly more reluctant to report crimes to authorities. Throughout the project, residents were strongly encouraged to report criminal activity in their neighborhood.

The team started the project with relationship-building events such as community cleanups, with much of the labor done by those serving probation as an opportunity to fulfill required community service hours. Later, they organized a safety expo, holiday events for kids, a neighborhood appreciation day and held regular community meetings. Other target initiatives included stepping up code enforcement of unsafe properties, enforcement of warrants and enhanced prosecution.

According to the report, project leaders specifically highlighted the Youth Employment Program, a program designed to help vulnerable youth, as the best example of a community partnership that has already improved lives. This program brought together local residents, businesses and government agencies not usually associated with crime reduction efforts. Following a local TV news story on the Program, government officials and local business owners responded with offers of additional assistance.

Several promising results came from the IL3CP Pilot project. Residents came forward to report more crime, allowing law enforcement and prosecutors to address unsafe elements in the community. The project fostered greater cooperation among agencies, sharing information and working together toward common goals. More resources were focused on the community such as a full-time probation officer with the Mesa Police Department’s Community Interdiction Team. Additionally, in 2013, MCAO created four Community Based Prosecution Bureaus aligning assignment of many criminal cases to geographic areas. This model allows prosecutors to build relationships within a community and local law enforcement, and to better understand the specific issues and types of crime that are unique to each area of the County.

The concept was expanded to Guerrero Rotary Park, a park that had become so overrun by drug dealing and gangs that the neighborhood could no longer safely use it. Community partners came together to clean it up and to combat the crime that had become prevalent in the area. The park was rededicated and continues to be enjoyed to this day by the community.

A copy of the report can be viewed at: http://ric-zai-inc.com/Publications/cops-p322-pub.pdf