July 1, 2003 – At the second open planning meeting for local implementation of Project Safe Neighborhoods, President Bush's initiative to reduce gun violence nationwide, the focus was on the concepts advanced by the Community Policing Consortium.
PSN presenter William Matthews, speaking Tuesday morning at Marriot Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort, explained that the consortium is a national collaboration of five organizations that play vital roles in policing, research, training and technical assistance. Matthews said his goal was for the group before him to come up with an action plan to reduce gun violence in the local community.
"We believe the solution is local," Matthews said.
About 18 persons, mostly housing community representatives and law-enforcement officials, attended the meeting.
As community members discussed gun-related problems they have observed, they were encouraged to find solutions to them.
Daryl George brought up the importance of rehabilitation for convicted criminals before they are released from prison. Especially "younger guys being locked up," he said, "go straight back to the life," returning to the very habits that landed them in jail.
Drew Diamond, another PSN presenter, encouraged participants to try to focus. The first need, he said, is to "deal with this fear" of reducing violence, "and then we can start talking about some of the other things." Referring to the convicts mentioned by George, he added: "What you want them to do is come back to a community that has changed."
To begin to bring these changes into focus, Matthews said, the community policing consortium must deal with what Matthews described as "the real enemy" — violence.
"We want to save as many people as we can, including the drug dealers," Matthews said, but "you got to do a variety of things." Among them: prevention, rehabilitation and imprisonment.
In the "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" television show, Mr. Rogers always asked who the people in the neighborhood are. One meeting participant said there are people in the neighborhood who see and know about crimes, but they are scared of saying anything.
Each community will play an active role in its recovery from gun violence, according to Diamond. "It's all about the people in the neighborhood," he said. "These things are built from the neighborhood up."
The tentative plan is for 10 police officers and 30 community leaders to get together to discuss strategic ways of dealing with gun violence, Diamond said.
Police Commissioner Elton Lewis said he thinks the Community Policing Consortium program "will be a tremendous help to the Police Department." He added: "The more community involvement, the more we will be able to build. It will rid the streets of crime."
According to Matthews, developing partnerships is key to success.
Lewis, named Police commissioner in March and confirmed by the Legislature in April, said he is looking forward to "establishing a good working relationship with the community."
Participants at the meetings to come will be encouraged to solve problems and not just talk about them, Diamond emphasized. "Our role is to keep the focus out front," he said, noting that Project Safe Neighborhoods is designed for a very short time frame.
"I like your concept of 60 days," George said.
It has not yet been decided which communities or which islands will be the first to implement PSN plans to reduce gun violence, Matthews said. "We have to do all the islands, but we have to start somewhere," he said.
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