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Director of Manchester citizen group explains how they achieved success

 

March 17, 2009



Jerome Jackson, associate director of the nonprofit Manchester Citizens Corporation, was the guest speaker at the Carrick Community Council general membership meeting March 11 at the Concord Elementary School on Brownsville Road.

The primary focus of the lengthy meeting that had a large turnout at the school auditorium was public safety awareness. In addition to Mr. Jackson, District 3 Councilman Bruce Kraus and Zone 3 Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey also spoke at the Carrick meeting. Mr. Kraus is the chairman of city council's public safety committee.

Mr. Jackson explained how his North Side organization has been able to reduce crime through a more pro-active approach that began in 2005. He cited crime statistics in his neighborhood that showed crime to be way up from 2000-2004 for Part 1 offenses such as aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, car theft, prostitution, drug-dealing, etc.

Since the residents of Manchester have become more active in calling 911 when they suspect criminal activity going on at a particular street corner, vacant lot or residence, arrests in Manchester have significantly decreased.

Mr. Jackson said that one of the methods used for getting residents to call more frequently is through a more unified approach to informing the public on what to watch for regarding crime activity. Through educating a large cross-section of residents, and not just isolated pockets of them within a small neighborhood block watch, residents have been able to better inform the police.

The more traditional block-watch approach, which generally represents a limited number of homes, has not been enough to make a difference for a large neighborhood that stretches for many, many blocks (like Carrick which is one of the largest neighborhoods in the city, geographically speaking). Mr. Jackson said a few years ago there were as many as seven different block watches in Manchester which created a disjointed, piece-meal approach to fighting crime.

The Manchester Citizens Corporation (MCC), one of the most sophisticated community development organizations in the state, has a track record of undertaking significant real estate development projects and forging innovative public-private partnerships to preserve and revitalize its neighborhood.

The MCC has been involved in development initiatives valued at more than $40 million since it was founded in 1965. The organization's roots lie in its response to the blight and abandonment that occurred on the North Side in the 1960s and 1970s. Community leaders formed MCC to create a neighborhood-based approach to development that continues to the present. Manchester Citizens Corporation was one of the first urban community based organizations in the nation to link historic preservation with economic development.

This strategy was unique during a time in the late 1960s when the predominant urban planning approach was to demolish entire city blocks and replace them with more suburban-style development. MCC's early and continued success in preservation has led to national recognition.

MCC offers a community wide public safety program that works closely with local residents and law enforcement officials to address crime.  Mr. Jackson, the program coordinator for its community watch program, is a trained mediator who offers mediation and training services to the neighborhood.

Mr. Kraus went over some of the legislative issues he has been working on in city council since assuming office more than 14 months ago. Although only a small portion of his district encompasses Carrick, Mr. Kraus understands that Carrick is closely tied to the other south hilltop neighborhoods.

Some of the legislative issues he has been working on includes hand-gun legislation in which a registered-gun owner must report his firearm missing or stolen as soon as it happens. He said what often happens is that people who do not have criminal records are legally purchasing guns and then turning them over to people with criminal records who are not allowed to buy firearms.

Another issue that is important to him is the re-opening of the curfew center which is tentatively set to be opened in Oakland. There is a $500,000 grant to re-open the center where youths 16-and-under will be placed if police find them on street corners without adult supervision past 10 or 11 p.m.

Mr. Kraus said some opponents of the curfew center said the grant money could be better spent on youth recreation programs which would help keep children off the streets. However, Mr. Kraus believes that many children prone to roaming the streets late at night are not interested in participating in traditional, wholesome recreational activities.

Mr. Kraus said public safety is among the most vital issues he faces on council each day because without having a safe, clean and attractive environment, all other issues become moot when trying to make the city a viable place to live.

 

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