Million-dollar crime reduction plan shows early signs of promise in North Flint

Million-dollar crime reduction plan shows early signs of promise in North Flint
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Hamilton Community Health Network is pursuing a $1 million vision for North Flint.

On the heels of its grant in the same amount from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance, the community organization is receiving positive responses to “early action” initiatives designed to reduce crime.

Uplifting messages like the lyrics in Jekalyn Carr’s powerful song, “You Will Win,” provided Flint residents with assurance that “no matter what you’re going through, you’ll be victorious in the end.” Carr  performed to a standing room only crowd at the Northbank Center last week. Photo courtesy of J. Carr

Recent events, including the “Love a Lot. Love a Life” volunteer cleanup effort Nov. 10 and the “Greater is Coming” inspirational concert by gospel artist Jekalyn Carr Nov. 16, have attracted hundreds of participants. Part of the Illuminating Community Change Project, the initiatives show signs of success in mobilizing North Flint toward work that will be required to make a true impact, organizers say.

“As a part of this community-based, crime-reduction project, one of the things we’re trying to do is capture the voice of the residents,” says Sandra Johnson, Hamilton Community Health Network’s project manager.

Sandra Johnson, Hamilton Community Health Network’s project manager, is heading up the $1M community safety initiative that encourages everyone “who can lend a hand, to give a hand.” 

About 350 people attended the concert by Jekalyn Carr, while about 75, including youth from Kettering University’s Kagle Leadership Initiatives, participated in the “Love a Lot.” cleanup, Johnson says. Both events helped Hamilton and its partners collect surveys relevant to the North Flint community’s needs, she adds.

The next scheduled event is a gathering of the initiative’s first focus group Nov. 27 at 5:30 p.m. at Mount Carmel Baptist Church, 1610 West Pierson Road. Childcare and a free meal will be provided. Limited space is available for participation, so residents who want to share their input are asked to RSVP to attend.

“The beauty of it is these focus groups are specific to targeted areas,” Johnson says.

The first gathering will invite homeowners and residents within blocks of four intersections along the Pierson Road Corridor, including: Pierson at Fleming Road, Pierson at Dupont Street, Pierson at Martin Luther King Boulevard, and Pierson at Saginaw Street. Convenience and party stores in the areas have been connected with foot traffic related to neighborhood concerns, according to police data.

There is power in collaboration and there’s more of that occurring on Flint’s North Side. Davison Free Methodist Church members were among the many partners that contributed to the north side “Love a Lot. Love a Life”  campaign. File courtesy of Davison Free Methodist Church

But Johnson says data isn’t enough to make Illuminating Community Change successful without resident engagement. Police statistics are only as accurate as the incidents reported, she adds: “There are a lot of trust concerns and there are a lot of fears. There are a lot of behaviors that are happening that are not supported” with data.

North Flint’s estimated 12,538 residents have experienced crime due to a variety of factors, research shows. Joblessness, a lack of stable neighborhood infrastructure, and reduction of police presence because of budget cuts have all had a negative impact.

Illuminating Community Change’s focus is on subdivisions within the western boundary of Clio Road, the eastern boundary of the Flint River, southern boundary of Pierson and northern boundary of Carpenter. Northern areas of the 48504 and 48505 zip codes, including Flint’s 1st and 3rd Wards, and the Brownell Holmes neighborhood expansion are all within the targeted impact region of the three-year grant.

WOW Outreach Founder Kenyetta Dotson has been leading efforts to reduce crime in North Flint since the organization’s inception in 2007. Photo Courtesy of WOW Outreach

With leadership from the North Flint Neighborhood Action Council, an umbrella organization of churches, block clubs, businesses and residents, Hamilton Community Health will continue its planning through April 2019, Johnson says. Vernon Chapel AME Church, 5802 Dupont, hosts Council meetings every third Thursday, excluding Thanksgiving.

“Once the planning phase has ended we will move into project implementation,” says Johnson, “and so we will have a convening, if you will, of community organizations and local non-profits.”

Some key partners include the Flint Police Department, Michigan State Police and the FANG task force, FBI Safe Streets Task Force, the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Northwestern High School, Genesee County Parks, Genesee County Sheriff, Crime Stoppers, the Genesee County Prosecutor, and Neighborhood Service Centers.

Beauty versus blight is the new narrative in Flint. File photo courtesy North Flint – Neighborhood Action Council.

“Community engagement is key,” adds Johnson. “That will be the most measurable outcome for this project.”

A particularly important segment of the community is the young adult demographic.

“We understand that youth engagement will be key to sustainability,” says Johnson, “and so we want to make sure we’re focused on youth planning and opportunities, and make sure we pay attention to their perception of the community as well.”

To RSVP to attend the Nov. 27 Illuminating Community Change focus group e-mail sjohnson@hamiltonchn.org or call (810) 262-1205.

Wow Outreach Founder Kenyetta Dotson. File photo

Lead photo courtesy of Hamilton Community Health Network

 

To learn more about WOW Outreach Founder Kenyetta Dotson and her tireless efforts, click here

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