Yes, we can.
That is the position of We CAN (Change & Action Now)—a partnership between three community service organizations in the Kensington and Fairhill neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice awarded NKCDC, HACE, and Impact Services Corporation a three-year, $1 million grant for “community-based crime reduction.” Our goal is to address crime and safety as part of a comprehensive plan for the neighborhood. We are focusing on three things:
- Increasing collective efficacy
A united neighborhood is a safe neighborhood. Kensington has committed volunteer organizations, but these groups often have limited resources and struggle to connect with each other and with city government. We CAN believes we can reduce crime by bringing more neighbors together, building trust, and giving local residents and organizations the tools and resources to make change. HACE is also expanding its Livability Academy—an 8-week course designed to help residents learn skills in leadership, community organizing and project management. All three partner organizations are expanding opportunities for youth development in our Community Connectors programs, including mentorship and skills training.
- Strengthening relationships and collaboration between police and the community
We CAN is starting conversations between 24th District officers and Kensington teens to help police better serve and protect young people of color, and help youth see the humanity in members of law enforcement. We are engaging residents to support the community-oriented policing model developed by the Philadelphia Police Department. And we plan trauma-informed training for police to ensure that victims of crimes are not re-traumatized by their interactions with police.
- Reducing physical disorder
Kensington suffers from many neglected buildings and untended lots, which can give cover to illegal activity. Working with neighbors, city agencies and the police, We CAN is planning environmental design projects to reduce crime in neighborhood hotspots. Cleaning and greening public space together also builds connections and trust between neighbors.
We CAN is concentrating its efforts on a section of Fairhill and Kensington between Front Street, Frankford Avenue Allegheny Avenue, and Lehigh Avenue. We are partnering with the 24th Police District, city agencies and over 28 local civic and religious organizations, and schools.
The collaborative has finished a yearlong phase in which we met with different community stakeholders to plan the best steps forward. Since May 2019, We CAN has engaged more than 2,000 residents through Chat & Chews, National Night Out, Safe Clinics, community clean-ups, trauma-informed art workshops, holiday events, block parties, resource fairs, art exhibits, and Police Buddy Outings to destinations like the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Zoo.
We have also administered more than 150 surveys of residents to collect baseline data about social cohesion, collective efficacy, and perceptions of crime and safety. Analysis is being conducted the Rutgers University Center for Urban Research and Education.
Integral to our work is increased youth involvement and a trauma-informed model of community engagement, which offer alternatives to cycles of violence and poverty. Our vision is a safe and unified neighborhood where residents work together to build trust, eliminate crime, and advocate for their community.
For more information
Please contact Cass Green, Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org or 267-896-0068. Follow We CAN on Instagram and Facebook @we.can.philly. We hope you will join the We CAN Advisory Committee and become a part of this exciting collaboration.