As crime imposes enormous health and safety costs on Detroit residents, the AmeriCorps Urban Safety (AMUS) has been working with the CompState program at Wayne University to address these concerns. AmeriCorps members build relationships with residents within communities in order to increase participation in neighborhood block clubs. This enables them to assist block clubs with organizing neighborhood watches, handing out informational leaflets, offering presentations to educate citizens about public safety and practices, conducting home safety assessments and offering no-cost safety enhancements, and identifying vacant buildings or lots for demolition or boarding up. The active participant of residents helps increase the sustainability of this program and produces “target hardening,” which is a reduced susceptibility to crime.
AmeriCorps members also utilize technology in order to increase residents’ awareness of public safety issues and crime-vulnerable “hot spots.” By teaching residents to use computers, internet access, social media, and email, AmeriCorps members are able to create virtual connections between residents. Residents use these technology platforms in group communications ranging from safety alerts to welcoming new community members and organizing community meals to orchestrating group clean-ups.
The program has exceeded its expectations by creating 68 new block clubs and organizing more than 200, all of which are on the path of sustainability beyond AmeriCorps participation. More than 2,000 residents participated in their block clubs’ meetings and activities. This community buy-in and support helps illustrate the success of the program and its impact on communities. AmeriCorps members are the ‘boots on the ground.’ They are equipped with the best real-time crime data available and are empowered by local organizations such as police departments, local schools, and community groups. These partnerships aid in the success of the program and increases local community participation within the project. Michigan Community Service Commission is exploring ways to replicate this program and its successes in other communities throughout the state.
To read more about this program, go to pages 76-77 in the Transforming Communities through Service Publication.