I think I can speak for everybody if not most, when I say that we all have the desire and greatest intentions to live in a safe, well rounded community. We want to feel safe when our children are outside playing. We want to see clean streets, happy neighbors, compassion and caring when it comes to all of those that make up our community. However just as there are different cities to live in there are undoubtedly different types of communities as well. Most of us try to focus on the positive, safe neighborhoods and would rather pretend that those run down, drug ridden neighborhoods don’t exist. The ones where drive by’s are common, drug deals go down daily, hourly, even right in front of your eyes in broad daylight. We would rather turn our backs and put our blinders on to those types of communities so we don’t have to deal with the fear, death, and unsafe streets that we can never imagine our children living in. But they exist. The streets we don’t want the ones we care about in, are filled with someone else’s children. The poverty stricken neighborhoods do exist. They are a everyday part of life for some. Those streets are their reality. Let’s take Camden, New Jersey for example. This community has been long known for it’s high crime rates, lack of enough police officers to patrol the neighborhoods, and high murder rates. Drug deals happened in broad daylight. Kids got shot while outside playing with friends. Many people live in Camden because that is what they could afford no matter how hard they worked. Some were there by choice while others had none. The one thing that was even more well known then the drug dealer down the street was that something had to be done. Something needed to change to help clean up these streets and allow more safety and less anxiety for those that lived in Camden. It was so bad at one point a 911 call took over an hour to be addressed. People were dying and crime was going on with not enough police officers available to do anything about. That was not a way to live. Something had to be done. And so it was….
The police department of Camden set up a task force to implement a new strategy on how to bring this community together and start the process of making Camden safe again. To make daily life livable in something other than anger and fear. This task force started by ridding some of the desk jobs of officers and getting them out on the streets. Not to patrol and arrest people, but to set up basketball games, listen to the people on their ideas on what needed to be done. Volunteer in schools, get to know the small businesses that made up this town, participate in reading programs. Slowly but surely as law enforcement took a different approach so did the residents. They began to trust one another. To work towards the same end goal. To protect the children and people of Camden and create a better environment. Since the start of this new approach the crime rate has decreased by 24%,. murder has gone down by 47%, open drug markets have gone down by 65%, and the response time for a 911 call that took and hour or more was answered in just 5 min!
What does this all go to show us? Community involvement is huge. That even when something seems truly segregated and hopeless, with a strong tight knit community anything is possible. Everyone has to be on the same page and working toward the same goals. There is always a new or different approach that can be taken to show community involvement. To create a place where our children our safe and going home after a day filled with the normal ups and owns of life is a relief instead of more of a struggle. Building strong communities builds healthy neighborhoods. Healthy neighborhoods aid in a better quality of life. If your community or one you know of is in need of a strengthening plan don’t be afraid to get out there and start pulling people together. All it takes is one person to start the movement.