Safety and Opportunity•
For week two of our summer indicator blog series, we take a look at community safety. The Opportunity Index measures community safety using the number of violent crimes, including homicide, rape, robbery and assaults per 100,000 people. As illustrated by a comparison between violent crime rates in Philadelphia County (1,382 crimes per 100,000) and neighboring Montgomery County (202 crimes per 100,000), the variation from one county to the next can be dramatic.
Building safe communities where individuals feel secure is crucial to restoring opportunity to all of America’s neighborhoods. Living in a state of fear or uncertainty about our basic need of security makes it incredibly difficult for people to focus on other pressing needs, such as pursuing education or job training that can lead to social mobility.
With a strong connection between violent crime and the lack of affordable housing, high unemployment and high school drop out rates, the approach to reducing violent crime must be multifaceted and holistic. Opportunity Nation’s coalition members are reducing crime and increasing opportunity in their communities by addressing many of these significant barriers. One of our coalition members,Peace First, is approaching community safety by providing youth with the skills they need to become more effective peacemakers in their own communities.
Peace First empowers youth to realize their potential as peacemakers through conflict resolution, effective communication and the development of positive relationships. They partner with schools in Boston, Los Angeles and New York City to provide a curriculum that allows students to develop their peacemaking skills and participate in community service projects that are specific to their communities. At the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year, 92% of teachers involved with the program reported positive social gains in their students.
Safe neighborhoods are built through the collaboration among residents, lawmakers and organizations who are willing to work together to provide a secure environment for members of the community to succeed. With groups like Peace First that are working to build personal conflict resolution skills and the countless organizations that are working to remedy the conditions that cause it, Opportunity Nation hopes to see the scores for community safety significantly improve in years to come.