Thursday, April 04, 2002

CAN has plan for safe streets

By Kevin Aldridge,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Placing youth volunteers on street corners to counsel at-risk kids.

        Holding juvenile court proceedings for first-time offenders in the neighborhoods where they live.

        Taking police officers out of their squad cars and putting them at residents' tables.

        They are all part of a proposal unveiled Wednesday by Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) to cut crime and improve police-community relations in 10 Cincinnati neighborhoods.

        CAN officials detailed what has been dubbed “The Cincinnati Plan” during a news conference at the AYS Cafe in Madisonville.

        The plan, which would be implemented over the next year, focuses on two areas:

        • Strengthening the personal relationships between police and residents by creating law enforcement collaboratives to keep their communities safe.

        • Helping keep youths who have been in trouble with the law out of situations that could lead to future violations.

        “The community has a role to play in reaching out to the police and saying we are in this together,” said Herb Brown, spokesman for Western & Southern Financial Group and leader of the CAN team that developed the plan.

        The announcement of CAN's first major initiative to address problems related to last April's riots came the same day a tentative settlement was reached in a racial profiling lawsuit against the city — and just four days before the one-year anniversary of the death of Timothy Thomas.

        “I think this is a huge step for us as a city,” Mr. Brown said. “The situation with Timothy Thomas last year was a real turning point for our city and the fact that we've been able to develop a police-community partnership in light of that is significant.”

        Among the components of the Cincinnati Plan are:

        • A Problem Oriented Policing program, bringing police and residents together to identify and solve crime-related problems. Neighborhood officers and residents trained in the approach will identify key safety concerns. Then they'll determine appropriate solutions tailored to the neighborhood.

        • A program involving youth street volunteers who would patrol neighborhoods and interact with at-risk children — steering them away from drugs, violence and gang activity. These young people would have credibility with police and youths on the streets and direct them to key resources in their communities, including ministers.

        • Juvenile community courts would be established in various neighborhoods to work closely with first-time offenders. These courts would enable police officers, court officials and parents to spend more time on individual cases and use community resources such as churches to deter future criminal behavior. Evanston, which has such a program, held its first session March 7.

        • Unofficial juvenile courts would be established. Volunteer lawyers would act as referees by hearing cases in the neighborhoods of first-time minor offenders. The lawyers would then refer the youth to a community leader or minister who would act as a mentor to keep him from getting into further trouble. The Black Lawyers Association of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Bar Association are recruiting lawyers to staff the courts.

        • A Weed and Seed program would be a cooperative effort between police and residents to “weed out” drug dealers and violent criminals. After prevention, intervention and treatment initiatives, the community is then “seeded” with important support services and revitalization efforts.

        Mr. Brown said several of these initiatives are under way and being expanded in Evanston and Madisonville, while communities such as Over-the-Rhine, Walnut Hills, West End and Avondale can expect to see portions of the plan implemented soon.

        The financial costs will be minimal, because most of the proposed programs rely on volunteers. CAN leaders are confident they can find money to cover the remaining costs.


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