What do art murals, childcare at community meetings, and improved landscaping have to do with a criminal justice grant? Everything if the funding happens to come from the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) program. The basic premise is that crime does not exist in a vacuum, so a holistic perspective is needed for improvement to take place. This approach often makes sense to us when it comes to our own personal health. Most of us accept that healing is not about simply taking a pill for a specific symptom, but broader factors like social support, stress reduction and nutrition can help enhance our immune system so medical treatment can work better. Likewise, crime reduction is much more effective if it is addressed in a community context rather than as a series of isolated incidents. Our social fabric can be strengthened in ways that makes it more resistant to crime.
The Four Main Objectives of the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program
- To integrate crime fighting efforts with community revitalization programs, such as aligning with Choice Neighborhoods or Promise Zones.
- To use evidence-based research to determine which approaches work.
- To engage the community in crime prevention and revitalization of their neighborhoods.
- To promote collaboration with multiple partners to address problems for many perspectives.
In the three years that BCJI has been in existence, it has helped 46 communities simultaneously fight crime and undergo revitalization. Here are some specific strategies that have been utilized to help reduce crime:
- Identify areas that are crime hot spots with the help of both professional researchers and community members.
- Assemble management teams with leaders from a broad spectrum of the community including: law enforcement, local governments, community development organizations, social service providers and neighborhood groups.
- Rehabilitation of abandoned and crime riddled properties.
- Drug market interventions.
- Comprehensive service programs for at-risk youth and ex-offenders.
- Beautification and revitalization projects based on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design CPTED principles. (This is a multidisciplinary approach that believes thoughtful modification of our physical environment can encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones.)
In evidence-based research, data must be gathered over a certain period of time in order for us to be confident of the results. Still, there have been some encouraging preliminary findings:
- A 20% decrease in crime in 2014 along Detroit"s Morang Avenue corridor.
- The BCJI area in Milwaukee saw a 23.7% decrease in certain types of crime in a targeted hot spot from 2013 to 2014 while those same crimes increased citywide by 2.5%.
- Data sharing and cooperation among law enforcement agencies and community members facilitated the arrests of four people who committed 28 gang shootings in Portland, OR. There was a subsequent reduction in overall shootings in the target area.
Applying for the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation (BCJI) Program
This program offers funding in two different categories. Implementation Grants are for candidates who already have planning awards. Planning and Implementation Grants are open to all eligible applicants, including state and local government, Native American tribes, institutions of higher education, and nonprofits. Apply by February 2, 2017.
The purpose of BCJI is not just to help specific applicants, but to uncover useful strategies all communities can use in their crime reduction and revitalization efforts. The resource page offers links to a BCJI forum where you can share ideas and exchange information. They even have a Facebook page which gives an up-close-and-personal view of the neighborhoods, events and people whose lives are touched by this program.
Evidence Based Research
Evidence-based research is a key to this program. Here is a research glossary of basic terms written for the layperson: