Innovations in Community Based Crime Reduction

CBCR in Action

SITE OVERVIEW  ♦  BATTLE CREEK | MICHIGAN

Target Area: Select areas adjacent to downtown • Population: 29,200
Fiscal Agent: City of Battle Creek
Research Partner:  iEval
Crime Concerns: Violent crime and property crime
CBCR Funding Year: 2014 Planning | 2016 Implementation

Neighborhood Profile

The target area, which consists of the neighborhoods of Post/Franklin, North Central, Central, and Fremont/McKinley, is adjacent to the downtown business district and encompasses the five major thoroughfares leading into downtown.  Within the target area, the population is dense and represents more than half of the city’s total.  Residents are primarily non-white (46%) and Hispanic/Latino (12%).  Over 30 percent of residents live in poverty and the median household income across the neighborhoods is under $45,000.  The target area also has a disproportionately higher level of crime compared to the city as a whole.  A crime hot spot exists within the target area that generated over 600 of the 1,807 reported violent crimes citywide in 2013.  In addition to high rates of violent crime, the area held high rates of property crime and accounted for 32 percent of the citywide total in 2013.

Planning Process

The planning phase for the CBCR project, Be Safe Battle Creek, lasted from October 2014 through late 2015.  The goals of the project were to develop a collaborative cross-sector partnership with significant resident engagement and investment, support ongoing community engagement, use data-driven problem solving to clearly understand and define the crime issues, and identify a continuum of community resources.  During the first part of the planning phase, CBCR partners mobilized to formalize the structure of the Be Safe Battle Creek Partnership Team.  After roles were established, the research partner led the process of collecting and analyzing data.  A GIS analysis was used to map crime, homelessness, and housing occupancy.  Data concerning socio-economic influences on crime was also used for the development of place-based and evidence-based strategies to combat crime issues.  CBCR partners concluded the planning phase by interpreting the results and used the findings from the analysis to develop a strategic plan to address crime issues and safety concerns, including identification of resources to foster sustainable change and leveraged support.  The culmination of these efforts resulted in the following findings:

  • Seven Police Reporting Grids (14, 17, 19, 20, 30, 32, and 34) were identified as having a disproportionate amount of crime.
  • The root causes of neighborhood crime encompassed two broad drivers: lack of trust and disordered housing.  Researchers identified that lack of trust was often the result of minimal interaction among neighbors.  In addition, residents reported concerns with the overall sense of security in the neighborhood and felt law enforcement officers were not active enough in their patrol efforts.  Disordered housing was largely attributable to high rental turnover, lack of landlord accountability, inconsistent code enforcement, and foreclosures and vacant properties that contribute to blight.
Battle Creek is among three CBCR sites in Michigan to date, joining Detroit and Flint.

Implementation Strategies

In 2016, the CBCR Battle Creek project moved into the implementation phase.  The process for developing a list of proposed strategies for the implementation plan focused on creating casual chains for each root cause associated with the primary crime drivers.  Strategies include:

  • Launch of a Neighborhood Ambassador Program to build the leadership capacity of residents by encouraging their engagement with the community
  • Learn by Doing Projects, which are short-term efforts designed to mobilize neighborhood interest and resident engagement.
  • Increase number of foot patrols to help reduce violent crime and reduce the “us vs. them” mentality by encouraging officers to engage in conversations with residents and businesses while on patrol to gauge perceptions of the neighborhood, crime issues, and daily occurrences.
  • Launch of a Good Landlord Incentives Program to reward landlords for participating in sessions that educate them on responsibilities to tenants and commitment for following anti-crime provisions and applicable housing codes.

Other notable efforts include:

  • Increased police presence in the community through events that raised awareness of crime and drug prevention efforts and generated support for local anti-crime efforts.  Additionally, the Battle Creek Police Department engaged in various school presentations and community outreach events, such as K-9 Unit demonstrations and street clean-ups.
  • Increased community engagement through Neighborhoods, Inc.’s “NextDoor” Initiative, a social media forum to connect residents.  Neighborhoods, Inc. also sponsored a Day in the Park event which provided free backpacks for children and hosted a Financial Capability Coaching program for residents who were planning large purchases and investments, such as buying a home, continuing their education, or starting a small business.

Other Key Partners

City of Battle Creek Police Department, Neighborhoods Inc. of Battle Creek, Urban League of Greater Battle Creek, City of Battle Creek Community Development Department, and City Linc

 

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