By Jeanne Cola
Posted Jul 28, 2017 at 6:06 PM | Updated Jul 28, 2017 at 6:06 PM
This weekend, the Providence Police Department will receive a much-deserved honor from the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies for its commitment to excellence. The reaccreditation announcement will be made in front of 600 members of law enforcement during the association’s four-day conference in Providence.
The acknowledgment recognizes the leadership of Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. and the value that he, and his department, place on community engagement. We are lucky to have a police force that values community building as an integral part of the job, and has even created a community relations bureau to carry out that mission. The very existence of the bureau speaks to its level of importance within the department.
Public safety is fundamental to the health and vitality of communities. Colonel Clements, and bureau head Major Oscar Perez, know that understanding the needs of the community makes them better police officers, and in turn, results in better communities. They recognize that getting to know the residents is an integral part of reducing crime. Officers are encouraged to serve on the boards of community development agencies, youth organizations, crime watch groups, and neighborhood and merchant associations. They even give out their cell phone numbers to residents. It’s clear that they care about what’s going on in our neighborhoods.
Local Initiatives Support Corporation believes that all people deserve to feel safe in their community. It’s as fundamental as having quality affordable housing, good jobs and strong schools. Safety is critical to attracting new homeowners and businesses to neighborhoods where these investments can be catalysts for revitalization. It’s a complex calculus that deserves our support and the Providence Police Department has been a true partner in the mission of improving the quality of life for our residents.
Since 1994, the Community Safety Initiative lead by LISC Safety has supported teams of community developers, residents, and members of law enforcement as they worked together to make neighborhoods safer in countless cities. We’ve seen how communities with these partnerships experience a dramatic decrease in crime — up to 70 percent — compared with places where law enforcement and neighborhood groups work in isolation.
In Rhode Island, LISC has worked with the residents of Aleppo Street and the Providence Police Department to help turn a blighted, chronically unsafe area into a neighborhood of opportunity. This area of Olneyville was a brownfield site where a third of the calls to the police department came from a few blocks of one street and resulted in a drain on police resources, and a culture of fear and intimidation.
Working together, we produced 150 new units of affordable housing, the removal and remediation of nuisance properties, the creation of a park, and a reduction of overall crime, especially violent crime, by significant numbers. That’s a clear indication that something there was done right.
LISC recently worked in partnership with One Neighborhood Builders with grant funding from the Department of Justice to map out crime “hot-spots.” As we move forward to tackle some of these issues, we know we have a strong advocate and hardworking partner in the Providence Police Department.
Jeanne Cola (Jcola@lisc.org) is executive director of LISC Rhode Island.