Monday, March 28, 2011

Petition and Discussion to Stop the Violence in New Haven

As part of our efforts to advocate for streets that are safe, comfortable and attractive for residents of all ages and abilities, the New Haven Safe Streets Coalition maintains a strong focus on policies such as "complete streets" and lower speeds, which have been proven to lead to a reduction in the hundreds of traffic injuries and fatalities that plague our community each year.

However, our efforts have also focused on the crucial links between physical activity, community cohesion, safe streets and community violence. These relationships are well documented on the Prevention Institute page, Connecting Safety to Chronic Disease, and elsewhere. An example application of this knowledge is San Francisco's Pedestrian Environmental Quality Index, which is used to plan walkable neighborhoods and which takes perceived public safety (like graffiti and lighting) into account. Safer streets and safe neighborhoods can lead to increased rates of walking and cycling, which are directly linked to reductions in overall injuries and fatalities as well as other gains in community well-being.

The tragic killing of Mitchell Dubey, a well-loved Downtown New Haven bicycle mechanic and musician, and other recent homicides within a few of New Haven's neighborhoods have spurred an increased level of attention to safety issues in the city.

If you would like to join in this discussion, the link and petition below may be of interest. Feel free to comment, add relevant documents or stories, discuss suggested violence prevent strategies, or recommend other items that should be on the page.

Petition: Stop the Violence in New Haven:

Addressing issues of public safety often requires persistence and collaboration across the civic sector. As one example, the image here shows the dark ceiling of the Chapel Street arcade at 900 Chapel Street last year, which had long-neglected, burned-out lights before it was "fixed" (and re-lit) through a combination of SeeClickFix issues, numerous calls to the property owner by local elected officials, citizens, and officials at the Town Green District, and several of Mary O'Leary's newspaper stories in the New Haven Register. Poorly-lit or abandoned public spaces cause a feeling of insecurity, and can discourage local residents from walking.

In addition to civic collaboration, individual relationships and community cohesion (which a new research brief shows can be severely undermined by income inequality) are critical as well. As local organizer Kevin Ewing points out on the SeeClickFix thread above, "The only people who are going to be able to stop the violence and crime happening in our communities are the people who are committing the acts of violence and crime in our communities. The rest of us have to convince them to stop. It's not going to happen unless we directly engage them... build relationships with them... understand what they want and push them to go after it. I don't think we need more programs. I think we need to fund the ones that make real impact. More importantly I think we need to fund the PEOPLE who are on the ground making direct differences."

On the same thread, Barbara Tinney suggests citizens take action around issues of gun control: "When the quality of life and public safety everywhere in our city becomes everyones concern then we can stop gun violence. When everyone asks the question - how do guns find there way into the streets of New Haven and demand an answer then we can stop gun violence. When we decide that no -one has the answer and that the solution will only result from true collective action then we can stop gun violence. When tragedy isn't the trigger for collective outrage, but is replaced with the genuine belief that we as citizens are better off when everyone is safe and we act accordingly then we can stop gun violence. We, the collective we that crosses neighborhood boundaries, racial lines, socio-economic differences and all the other things that keep us in our silos decide that will not not stand for gun violence in our city then we will witness its elimination. If we muster the will to take a stand as full participants in community life we can stop gun violence."

The New York Times recently highlighted this issue, pointing out that guns that fire 33 bullets before re-loading are now legal again thanks to the expiration of the ban on assault weapons. The Connecticut Against Gun Violence organization maintains a useful page with facts about this issue locally. For example, in Connecticut, one study showed that 23% of small-city 9th and 10th graders and 15% of affluent suburban 9th and 10th graders said that it would be sort of easy or very easy to get a gun. New Haven is a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a national group devoted to this issue.

Although Connecticut and New Haven are, in general, very safe places, this issue indirectly or directly affects all of us, and it must be addressed if we want to have healthier, more vibrant streets.

More Information

For information about public safety related to New Haven, one place to begin is the New Haven Health Department's briefing reports:

Creating a Healthy and Safe City: The Impact of Violence in New Haven (2011)

Executive Summary (Short Version)

Full Report (with Maps, Charts etc.)

Additionally, Community Mediation and the New Haven Police Department have been holding a series of discussions on the topic of community and police partnerships. Please see the schedule of events and a summary of the discussions at this page.

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