South Los Angeles takes center stage at national crime forum as model of police-community collaboration

Jan 22, 2014, 16:50 ET from Local Initiatives Support Corporation

AG Holder, HUD Secy Donovan join local L.A. leaders to detail significant crime drops

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 22, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It may not be a silver bullet, but it's working:  to reduce crime in Vernon Central and other tough neighborhoods across the city, local police and community development groups are collaborating in unprecedented ways—aligning crime reduction with a revitalized "built" environment to make neighborhoods safer and lift the prospects of low-income families.

At a national symposium in New York last week called "Safe Streets, Strong Communities," Los Angeles officials joined cabinet secretaries, police chiefs, local leaders and national advocates to talk about how to expand an approach to crime that replaces dangerous "hot spots" with quality housing, active businesses, and safe spaces for families.

It's a signature program from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), now at work in 45 cities, that focuses on building strong police-community partnerships and providing the training and funding communities need to develop projects that revive their neighborhoods.  LISC—the nation's largest community development nonprofit—and the Police Foundation led the symposium, which was sponsored by the MetLife Foundation.

"As LISC has consistently shown us, it is imperative that we bring together federal partners, local authorities and community leaders and move forward with policies that effectively allocate limited resources to facilitate long-term success in these communities," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. He added that neglected communities must be helped "not just to succeed, but to thrive. At a basic level, we must act on the recognition that all of us are in this together."

That's certainly been the case in L.A. Over the last five years, L.A.'s gang crime has dropped by almost half because police and prosecutors teamed up with the community, said Anne Tremblay, L.A. assistant city attorney. They also now use data to inform how they deploy resources.

Mark Wilson, executive director of Coalition for Responsible Community Development, described one of the many ways that takes form, noting how a massive renovation of the Dunbar Hotel and the historic 28th Street YMCA in Vernon Central changed the outlook for the community.

Both projects were havens for crime and deterioration, he said, and redevelopment projects addressed that.  The Dunbar's renovations, for instance, corrected design problems that contributed to poor security. The project created employment opportunities for neighborhood residents, a space for an after-school program, a playground and community rooms.

Both of these projects have since become prized community centerpieces, Wilson said, despite predictions to the contrary. "Using community development as a strategy to improve public safety actually works," he said.

Tremblay urged community leaders to get to know the police and stay close.  "Ride along with the officers," she said. "Find out what their goals and metrics are so you can help them do a better job. When a captain leaves, broker a meeting with the new captain, and ask that he check in with the former captain to make sure the relationship with the community continues. Bring other folks to the meetings so they understand what initiatives are going on and how they can contribute."

The conference featured similar stories from around the country. And the urgency around growing the impact was clear.  "It's simply wrong that in too many neighborhoods across this country—no matter how hard a child or their parents work, the single biggest predictor of their life outcomes, even their lifespan, is where they grow up," said U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan. "Our nation has the obligation to turn communities with problems into communities with promise."

Already, many long-troubled communities in L.A. are benefitting from major investments in housing, health care, commercial revitalization, community gardens, parks and education, all of which are helping make the neighborhood safer as well as healthier.

"Community development fights crime," said Claudia Lima, executive director of LISC Los Angeles, after the conference.  "These are not isolated efforts to develop buildings on one side of the equation or to arrest offenders on the other.  We think of them as part of the same whole that concentrates on making this community a better place for all our neighbors to live."

Contact: Claudia Lima, LISC L.A.
213-240-3118 or

Julia Ryan, LISC Community Safety Initiative
212-455-1618 or

SOURCE Local Initiatives Support Corporation