Building “A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth” through problem-oriented community organizing: A quasi-experimental evaluation

Charlotte Gill*, David Weisburd, Denise Nazaire, Heather Prince, Claudia Gross Shader

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Research Summary: This paper describes Rainier Beach: A Beautiful Safe Place for Youth (ABSPY), a community-led, place-based, data-driven initiative to improve community safety and reduce crime involving young people at hot spots in Seattle, Washington. The ABSPY model puts crime prevention into the hands of the community, compared to traditional problem-solving approaches that may involve community stakeholders but are led by the police. We evaluated the initiative using a quasi-experimental research design comparing the five hot spots in the Rainier Beach neighborhood, where ABSPY was implemented, to five similarly situated hot spots elsewhere in the city. We used 9 years of police calls for service and offense reports, from 2011 to 2019, to assess ABSPY's effects on crime and a five-wave community survey conducted pre- and 4 years post-implementation to examine community perceptions. Although there were no significant effects on calls for service or crime, ABSPY significantly improved community members’ perceptions of serious crime and the police in the short and medium term. Policy Implications: Our results show positive changes in community perceptions that offer a foundation for relationship and capacity building in problem-solving efforts. Although ABSPY is not associated with reductions in crime, our results suggest that even communities with entrenched crime problems can leverage this capacity to reduce crime in the longer term. Community coalitions also offer some benefits relative to police-led efforts, such as shared culture and values; stability; and consistency. However, community coalitions must build capacity for action as well as community engagement, and consider if and how the police should be involved, ensuring that the specific expertise of each coalition member is leveraged. Furthermore, our study highlights the importance of identifying measures of crime that are not affected by increased trust and collaboration between the police and the community.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalCriminology and Public Policy
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Criminology & Public Policy published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American Society of Criminology.

Keywords

  • community organizing
  • crime & place
  • crime prevention
  • policing
  • problem-solving
  • quasi-experiment
  • youth

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