Working with the Community

Seven-thirty at night, walking down Hunts Point Avenue on a cold night, I turn the corner of Hunts Point and Longwood to walk into the 41st Precinct.

Some people might assume that I would be there to lodge a complaint. On contrary, I’m being escorted to a meeting room filled with people from the community who are attending a monthly police precinct council meeting.

It’s one of many meetings that I attend as a coordinator of community initiatives at Bronx Community Solutions.

The challenge for us is community engagement in a borough with upwards of 1.5 million residents, twelve precincts and community boards, each of which hold monthly meetings. (Community boards are the most local level of government, where citizens can take a part in the decision making in their district and express their concerns about different issues. And precinct meetings give the local residents a chance to meet with their police captain and talk about public safety issues affecting their neighborhood.)

Attending community meetings is not just for public relations purposes – we get a lot of tangible ideas from these meetings. For example, based on feedback from community members at the 41st and 48th precincts concerned about prostitution, we’ve decide to create specific classes tailored for women to get them out of the lifestyle. We've also gotten suggestions about step streets and graffiti removal projects to target with our community service crews.

Accessibility to the community is the key principle for us at Bronx Community Solutions. That’s why we organized a Community Advisory Board, to help give us feedback on how we’re doing. But it’s not enough to organize our own meetings: we want to show we’re a responsible and active member of the Bronx community.

My job has been to set up a rotation for BCS staff to attend a meeting per month.

In creating the rotation schedule, I did my research. Working with the Community Advisory Board. I identified four target zones hit the hardest by low-level crimes. Two zones are located in the south Bronx, so we decided to first tackle the South Bronx and then spread north.

The next task was recruiting Bronx Community Solutions’ staff to help out. Since we have spent a lot of time explaining the concepts behind Bronx Community Solutions in the courthouse, our staff was ready to do the same within the community.

Still, we are careful to provide training to everyone who’s participating. And since we only ask staff member to attend one meeting a month (usually held in the early evenings) it has not posed an overwhelming burden.

Today, we’re active in eight out of 12 community boards and five out of 12 police precincts.