Tackling 'Cozy Corners'
"What can we do about 'cozy corners' - areas where drugs are sold, people hang out all day and residents don't feel safe when they walk home at night?" asked Soundview resident Geraldine Eggleston-Hopper at the Bronx Community Solutions advisory board meeting.
It's a different agenda for the court system: attempting to tackle conditions of disorder that are often the biggest compliants of community members, in addition to focusing on individual cases.
Last night's community advisory board meeting was attended by over 20 local residents, members of the faith-based and business community, police officers, attorneys and representatives of local community-based organzations as well as government agencies. The group was remarkably diverse, bringing people together from all walks of life in the Bronx, as well as a prosecutor from Stockholm, Sweden interested in learning about community engagement strategies.
At the board's request, we came to the second meeting prepared: we mapped the home addresses of 1,000 Bronx Community Solutions participants, looking for neighborhoods such as Soundview hit hardest by low-level crime. (While not perfect, home addresses are a good proxy for high-crime areas, because most crime is committed locally.)
We then asked the board to talk about the issues faced in these neighborhoods, as well as discuss how the advisory board could respond. The idea is to start small, creating "safe spaces" one street corner or park at a time, and eventually work our way across the Bronx.
Ideas included turning an abandoned property into a small business run by Bronx Community Solutions graduates, cleaning and maintaining step streets (built to help pedestrains get up steep hills, step streets are often dangerous and poorly mantained) with local groups, and identifying and supporting grassroots community-based organizations that do excellent work but are often unnoticed.
We're going to act immediately on the step streets idea, working with the Bronx Borough President's office to identify step streets in our high-crime neighborhoods. The idea would be to send our community service crews out to clean these streets, in partnership with a community-based organization who would be responsible for ongoing maintenance.
We also plan to expand our public education efforts, borrowing the "judge for yourself" concept developed by a community court in Salford, England, in which citizens meet with judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys and discuss how the court responds to real-life low-level criminal cases.