The West Phoenix neighborhood surrounding Grand Canyon University has been plagued by crime for a number of years. Drugs, gang violence, prostitution and other illegal activities created a blight on the area, known as Canyon Corridor. But over the past couple of years, things have begun to change. Many people credit an initiative by The Phoenix Police Department and Grand Canyon University for the reduction in crime.
In the United States, when we hear about so-called crime-fighting initiatives, they typically consist solely hiring more cops and making more arrests. There were a couple of problems with that approach in this case. First, there was a hiring freeze on new police officers that wasn’t set to expire until this year. Second, federal funding for overtime work at the PPD was also about to be cut off. Nevertheless, a Neighborhood Safety Initiative was launched. The funding was provided by the City of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University. Each offered an investment of $500,000 (for a total of $1 million) over the ensuing five years. That investment covered police overtime within the area, which covers about four square miles. But here is the unique aspect of the program. Rather than focusing on making as many arrests as possible, they concentrated on problem-solving, and they call it a “holistic” approach.
Some examples of the initiative are offering sex workers an opportunity to have prior arrests expunged from their records; free housing; job assistance; and health care services. Another aspect of the plan was investing money in local businesses, which had been feeling the pinch caused by the high crime rates, and encouraging students to open new businesses in the area. The program also includes a learning center that provides tutors for public school children.
If recent statistics are any indication, the initiative has been a huge success. Here are the numbers:
- Between the first have a 2014 and the first half of 2015, violent crime (homicide, rape, aggravated assault and robbery) was down by more than 23%.
- During the same period, property crime was down by close to 20%.
The figures are particularly impressive when you compare them to the stats for the entire City of Phoenix, where, during the first six months of 2015, violent crime was up by 6.6%, and property crime was down by only 2.5%. In addition, the initiative is credited with positive changes in the public schools, including Alhambra High School, which went from a D rating to a B rating over the past few years.
All in all, the efforts in the Canyon Corridor, which focus on the roots of crime (poverty, homelessness, etc.), appear to be a lot more successful than pouring money into making more arrests and handing out more citations.
The Feldman Law Firm PLLC
1 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004