Safe Neighborhoods and Economic Development
Are Inextricably Entwined
Did you know the Department of Justice has a nation-wide Project Safe Neighborhoods program? Their website states:
“…the program is based on the fundamental principle that law enforcement agencies and communities must work together to address violent crime to make our neighborhoods safer”
PSN is a community-based violence reduction strategy in which each local program is designed to address the specific violent crime problem in each district. Every U.S. Attorney across the country is implementing a PSN program tailored to the needs of his or her district.”
The site goes on to state one of the common elements is to “ensure prosecution of those offenders in the federal, state, local or tribal system – whichever provides the most certain and appropriate sanction.”
That means punishment.
One of the strategies stated is each “program utilizes law enforcement and community intelligence, along with cutting-edge technology, to identify and target the most violent offenders for enforcement action.”
How were the PSN programs working during the 2020 riots in some of our largest cities? Where were those U.S. Attorneys? I mentioned in in a recent blog that I had contacted the economic developers of Seattle, Portland and Minneapolis to ask them how their businesses were coping and what was being done to help them. I received no response.
Economic developers know safe neighborhoods are one of the basic factors site selectors and companies examine when contemplating relocation or expansion into a community. Other factors affecting these decisions are:
- Quality and availability of workforce
- Transportation infrastructure / access
- Union presence
- Local / state tax burden
- Overall operational costs, including utilities
- Appropriate site / building inventory
- Availability of workforce housing
- Quality of schools
- Access to quality healthcare
- Cultural and recreational amenities
The American Association of Public Administration published an article in 2014 stating addressing crime was the number one priority for economic development. The article went on to say the safety of the public and their neighborhoods was government’s most important job.
A community can have great schools and high-wage jobs, but if people aren’t safe, those great things won’t last. Residents will move, businesses will relocate and schools will close.
The article cited the example of New York City’s Times Square. In the 1984, Times Square had over 2000 crimes, only employed 3000 people in legitimate businesses that produced $6 million in property taxes.
Law enforcement implemented CompStat which collected, analyzed, mapped and reviewed crime data. It developed and implemented strategies to address crime and hold police accountable for performance. It could locate where the crimes were committed and analyze what was done to address the crimes.
Law enforcement also arrested low-level offenders for petty crimes and tracked crime by geographic location. By the end of 1991, Times Square’s crime rate was 12 percent below 1984.
New York also condemned the many sex businesses for economic blight. Then they offered tax incentives/abatements to attract business back to Times Square. At the time of the article, Times Square contributed 1,100,000,000 in annual taxes to New York City.
When people don’t feel safe, everything else loses importance in their minds. Communities must put the safety of their residents as a top priority because it’s the right thing to do and because it matters to the economic health of the community.