Can open conversations with cops and inner-city youth bring down crime rates?
The organization, Pennsylvania Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC), trains Philadelphia cops to empathize with inner-city youth. Its seminars aren’t a certain fix to rebuilding trust between police and the communities they serve, but data collected from DMC and other case studies around the country, suggest they are making a difference.
These open conversations are happening across the country. In New Jersey’s suburbs, a teen asked a detective, “Do you guys think we’re good kids?” Cops shared tips about dealing with online harassment and dating violence in Seattle. Orlando participants role-played a traffic stop before reviewing citizens’ rights during the encounter.
These types of meet-ups, which are formally known as “facilitated dialogue,” also appear to be associated with a drop in crime. After forums in a Boston public housing complex, violent crime in that neighborhood decreased substantially, dropping 31 percent between 2009 and 2010. Drug offenses also plunged 57 percent over a three-year period.
Meet-ups are designed to breakdown negative perceptions of both cops and kids. Stereotypes can get in the way of keeping communities safe, says Rhonda McKitten, who helped develop and expand DMC’s program across Philadelphia and into Connecticut and Florida. Police “don’t have the relationships that are going to help them get information,” McKitten says. “And young people … are not going to be able to go to them when they need help.”
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