An Anchor Institution
Strong, healthy, and safe neighborhoods are places where people and their families can thrive, linking this area of anchor institution activity to many other aims. These are neighborhoods that thrive economically, where healthy lifestyles prevail, and where young people can readily see realistic pathways from cradle to rewarding careers, staying in school to prepare them for an adulthood characterized by economic and civic productivity and lifelong learning.
We organize our work on safety into three thematic areas.
Immediate strategies oriented toward rapid reduction in violence
Rutgers University’s Police Institute (PI) has been a primary partner for forceful strategies that target violent crime. The PI is in its third year of the Newark Violence Reduction Initiative which uses information about gangs and gun violence to identify high activity individuals (at risk of engaging in and being victims of gun violence) and design interventions to interrupt the violence. Areas where NVRI has operated have experienced a 40% drop in shootings and homicide.
The PI is also centrally involved in the creation of a Real-Time Crime Center
which uses state of the art technology to make responses to violent events more rapid leading to higher rates of apprehension. The RTCC is a consulting system to local policing authorities, and hosts monthly law enforcement summits on campus for all agencies carrying out law enforcement activity in Newark (from policing services at state and local levels to correctional services in the community). One specific outcome of these meetings: the “Route 21 Corridor Project” which links law enforcement activity of the multiple police agencies that patrol NJ Rte. 21 from Paterson through Newark to Jersey City.
Coordinating mechanisms designed to improve the impact of public safety work already underway
Although several dozen public safety initiatives are currently underway in Newark, many lack an evidence base and most do not interact, resulting in missed opportunities that would arise from integrated public safety strategies. As a result of RU-N’s October 2014 Public Safety Summit, a “Safer Newark Council” is being created, comprised of high-level private sector leadership working in cooperation with the city’s public safety leadership. The council will ensure that Newark’s public safety strategies are evidence-based and interconnected, identify gaps in public safety work and provide funding to fill these gaps. It is expected the Council will be hosted and staffed by RU-N.
Successful crime prevention requires “intelligence-led” strategic thinking that begins with systematic analysis of patterns of crime and likely intervention points. RU-N has established a crime analysis unit within the Newark Police Department, to be supervised by School of Criminal Justice Professor Anthony Braga and staffed by advanced doctoral students who are specialists in crime analysis. The unit will identify high-priority crime problems (such as carjackings) and develop targeted interventions.
Location-specific work that builds the infrastructure of safety
Effective long-term public safety requires location-specific approaches that take into account the distinctive characteristics of the people who are there and the nature of the space they occupy. Rutgers is deeply involved in two location-specific initiatives:
The Downtown Business District Safe Corridor Project (DBD)
For people who enter and leave this area for work each day, risk of criminal victimization is actually very low by any standard. But popular belief about safety in Newark leads to elevated fear of crime for people who work and live in the DBD, with the result that there is less activity in public space and civic life than a DBD needs to thrive. Interventions here are designed to revise the nature of public space and private behavior so that fear will be less problematic.
The Fairmount Promise Neighborhood
The current plan is to create a Neighborhood Health and Justice Center in Fairmount, partnering with Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences. The HJC would be a comprehensive, community-based service center that would focus on child health, educational success, families affected by criminal justice involvement, and adult health care. Current Fairmount-based work (for example, HEAL—a child health care legal advocacy clinic, and our nutrition program) would be co-located with new initiatives promoting health and justice for local families. The HJC would grow into a cornerstone of the neighborhood’s self-advocacy, deriving its inspiration from The Urban Peace initiative of the highly successful Advancement Project in Los Angeles.
This is a major, multi-faceted project in which RU-N and community partners from across sectors collaborate to build the social bonds and developmental programs needed to empower neighborhoods to slowly but surely lift themselves out of poverty. RU-N, the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, and the Urban League of Essex County are the managing partners of NFPN, working with community-based organizations and leaders committed to supporting the families of the Fairmount neighborhood, defined as 43 blocks located a mile to the west of Newark’s downtown. The Fairmount neighborhood is very poor: nearly 2/3 of children live below the federal poverty line, and nearly 2/3 of children live in single female headed households. Most Fairmount children attend either the Thirteenth Avenue School or West Side High School; others attend other Newark schools, including charters and magnet high schools. The NFPN planning council, which is made up of leaders from community organizations, Fairmount residents, and service providers, provides input in program development, identifies potential programs, strategies, and funding opportunities, and provides support for development efforts.
Major programmatic efforts of NFPN are organized around education—in coordination with the Newark City of Learning Collaborative—as well as health, and family and community capacity-building. Among those underway are:
New Ark Freedom School Summer Program
This four-week summer program benefitted more than 21 children, who primarily attend the 13th Avenue School (one child attended a charter school). The program was run in conjunction with the school and was staffed by RU-N undergraduate students and graduate students. The program received extremely positive feedback from the participants’ families.
After School Program for Third Graders
A spin-off of the summer New Ark Freedom Summer Program, this is an after-school reading enrichment program for third graders in the 13th Avenue School. This is being run in conjunction with New Communities Corporation, with funding from the state.
Mentoring at West Side High School
In partnership with MCJ Amelior Foundation, Rutgers University-Newark and others are identifying and coordinating a mentoring program that will benefit 1,000 students attending West Side High School, and leverage the mentor network to identify summer internship and employment opportunities.
Nestle Nutrition and Program for Parents Partnership
Nestle Nutrition and Rutgers University-Newark have partnered to promote nutrition, health and wellness for expectant Fairmount mothers and families. Other partners include the United Way, the Urban League, and the Newark Public School. Moving forward, this program will provide nutritional education and support based in the schools, churches, mosques, and early childhood centers within the Fairmount community.
Goals to enhance Fairmount programs include:
- Expand the New Ark Freedom School Summer Program to six weeks;
- Help 13th Avenue School expand its after school program to include all students;
- Expand the current summer programs for Fairmount Neighborhood high school students to provide job training, mentorship, and educational programming focused on career interests identified by those students. Say, for example, criminal justice is a career interest; RU-N would leverage the Police Institute and other community partners to create a summer immersion program built on existing summer programs.
African-American Brain Health Initiative
Because African Americans are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as the general population, RU-N collaborates with a range of community and church groups, especially in the West Ward, to promote brain health and education about Alzheimer’s disease. RU-N neuroscientist Mark Gluck directs the African-American Alzheimer's Awareness and Brain Health Initiative, which offers an array of programs focused on ways to improve memory and to age well, how to care for elders with dementia, support services for families and legal issues for caregivers, and how to cook brain- and heart-healthy foods. The objective is to reduce the incidence, social cost, and personal, familial, and community devastation caused by the high rate of Alzheimer’s disease among African Americans.
Community partners include Bethany Baptist Church, St. James A.M.E. Church, The New Hope Baptist Church, East Orange Office of Senior Services, City of Newark Municipal Council, and Babyland Family Services, Inc. Among the program’s supporters are the National Institutes of Health, Forest Laboratories, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association of New Jersey.
Working at the Intersection
Building on all of these initiatives, RU-N and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS) are working to develop a comprehensive Fairmount Community Health and Justice Center, to help to improve quality of life indicators (overall health, safety, and economic development). Through the Center, RBHS would help achieve one of Chancellor Brian Strom’s top priorities: Significantly enhancing primary care for Newark residents through the development of inter-professional collaborations that link community-based primary care (provided via the Center) with specialists to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that might be prevalent in the City, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and mental health needs.
Criminal justice work at RU-N would help inform the center’s social justice work, along with the Newark Violence Prevention work underway in the City. The research and outreach initiatives within the School of Criminal Justice, Rutgers Law School-Newark, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences-Newark could all be brought to bear on complex challenges such as disconnected youth, gang violence, and access to basic services facing residents in the Fairmount neighborhood.
A new initiative based within the center will be focused on Greening Vacant Lots for Public Health and Safety. A new RU-N colleague, Dr. Bernadette Hohl, is trained in public health, and was the project director for the University of Pennsylvania greening project in Philadelphia. She will work within Fairmount (and other neighborhoods), utilizing a strategic approach to neighborhood redevelopment and crime reduction to transform vacant lots within Fairmount into neighborhood assets. Vacant land stabilization has a direct positive impact on the health, safety and economic wellbeing of communities.
All of this would tie to the work that has been accomplished through the NFPN planning grant. Those organizations involved with NFPN would also help inform the plan for the Fairmount Community Health and Justice Center.
- Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood includes such programs as New Ark Freedom School Summer Program, After School Program for Third Graders, Mentoring at West Side High School and the Nestle Nutrition Program.
- Strong Healthy Communities Initiative South Ward Mapping
- Rutgers University’s Police Institute’s Newark Violence Reduction Initiative
- Real-Time Crime Center
- The institute is working to launch the Downtown Business District (DBD) Safe Corridor Project. In the DBD, risk of being a crime victim is actually very low but fear of crime is high, based on popular belief about safety in Newark. As a result, people who work and live in the DBD are far less involved in civic life than is necessary for a DBD to thrive. The Safe Corridor Project will work to counter this fear and encourage civic engagement.
- Nestle Nutrition Program
- African-American Brain Health Initiative
- RU-N and Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences are in discussions to develop a comprehensive Fairmount Community Health and Justice Center.