Cleveland, Ohio

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

Cleveland, Ohio

Target Area: The Central Neighborhood - Population 12,000

BCJI Awardee: City of Cleveland

Research Partner: Begun Center for Violence Prevention, Research, and Education, Case Western Reserve

Focus Areas: Part I Crimes, Social and Economic Isolation, Gangs, Youth

BCJI Funding Year: FY2018

Neighborhood Characteristics

The Central Neighborhood is directly adjacent to downtown Cleveland and is encapsulated within a network of busy thoroughfares and buffering institutions with large footprints, including Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center; the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals with their attendant health campuses. Though small, the neighborhood encompasses varied landscapes:

  • Light industrial properties: development along Euclid Corridor and the new Opportunity Corridor
  • Commercial or service properties: small businesses and nonprofit human services
  • Recreational properties: city recreational centers and local play areas
  • Educational properties: charter and Cleveland Metropolitan School District schools, the local community college, and two university campuses
  • Residential properties: private single-family homes, public high-rise and low-rise housing, private mixed-use buildings, and community estate housing

The Central Connection Initiative's (CCI) crime reduction strategy focuses on the creation of space for residents and police to have their voices heard, reciprocally understand both individual and shared priorities, and find or rediscover innovative ways to partner. CCI believes safety will improve when residents are allowed to find meaningful ways to work together to achieve local, specific revitalization goals.

Planning Phase

During the Planning Phase, CCI explored data regarding crime and disorder, while also creating pace to hear from residents and stakeholders regarding their concerns and hopes for the neighborhood. CCI's research partner, the Begun Center, focused on how crime rates have changed over time, identifying possible trends in Part I crime, but also following citations and various other enforcement actions. The listening sessions were helpful in identifying key themes around neighborhood pride, divisions among stakeholder groups, and the need for youth to have their voices heard in community-related conversations.

Focusing on police-community relationships, CCI hosted reverse ride-alongs in the neighborhood as its Early Action Project. Ten police officers from Cleveland Division of Police's 3rd District and over 55 community members participated in this daylong community tour. The reverse ride-alongs facilitated open and authentic perspective-sharing dialogues between police and community members. Highlights included: officers having the opportunity to interact with residents outside of enforcement actions, which was especially impactful for officers who regularly work overnight, as well as officers and community members engaging in discussions around community-identified themes, such as police and youth, police and social media, and police and mental health.

CCI has proposed a slate of interventions for the Implementation Phase to address concerns identified through data analysis. The implementation activities related to violence intervention and outreach include, creating local safety ambassadors, promoting youth voices, establishing a public safety round table, working with police to improve their internal culture, and developing the skills of advocates from the Central Neighborhood to help them engage with policymakers and funders on city, regional, and state levels.

Implementation Strategies

CCI developed an Action Plan for the Implementation Phase based on the data collected during the Planning Phase, information from the piloted activities, and the success of the site's Early Action Project. The implementation activities described below support interventions that offer a broader range of participation by and creativity from community members in the Central Neighborhood, especially youth. Each of these activities aims to foster a legacy of leadership, both in the community and within Third District police officers, dedicated to building relationships, improving safety, and reducing crime. 

  • Violence Interruption and Outreach: In partnership with Cleveland Peacemaker's Alliance (CPA), CCI will provide street outreach, case management, and hospital-based violence interruption. CPA focuses on youth ages 15-25, with violence interruption and outreach are their cornerstone services. Peacemakers, CPA's caseworkers, act as credible messengers promoting alternatives to violence and preventing retaliation. CPA works with local hospitals to station Peacemakers in trauma units. Through bedside and waiting room interventions, CPA Peacemakers work with injured patients and their families to prevent retaliation. Youth and young adults seeking to withdraw from gang involvement or other illegal activities can receive free case management services.
  • Safety Ambassadors and Youth Voice Programming: Working with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, CCI is building a team of Safety Ambassadors. Modeled on Cleveland's existing PROMISE Ambassadors who focus on K-12 education outreach, Safety Ambassadors provide CCI with a grounded and authentic connection to individuals and families in the Central Neighborhood. This peer-to-peer model facilitates deeper outreach and information dissemination, builds participation networks of trusted peers, develops professional skills of individuals in the community, and provides a feedback channel for ongoing program management and adjustments. Safety Ambassadors will be residents as well as other stakeholders recruited from the Central Neighborhood. The Safety Ambassadors will help to identify individuals and families in need of service through the CPA violence interruption and outreach services. Safety Ambassadors will assist in the coordination of up to four community-based safety events per year. These events may include reverse ride-alongs, community safety forums, or coordinating with the Third District to provide additional support to existing safety events.
  • Public Safety Roundtable and District Meetings: CCI will host a Public Safety Roundtable, modeled off of the Alliance for Safety and Justice's Shared Safety Initiative. The primary mechanism for police to connect with community members has been through monthly district meetings with the Cleveland Police Department and resident meetings with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department. While the complementary police forces share information, they rarely attend each other's events and meetings. The Public Safety Roundtable will bring these departments together to provide clear and distilled data to community members about police enforcement activities and create a forum for residents to voice safety concerns.
  • Police Cultural Transformations: First piloted in the Cleveland Division of Police's Fourth District and led by the Acho Group and Lotus Executive Leadership, cultural transformation aims to facilitate organizational improvements that enhance work efficiency and empathy, as well as increase officer hopefulness. The innovation team developed in the Fourth District, comprised of front-line officers, detectives, sergeants, and community residents, has already implemented meaningful changes. These changes include automated duty reports to give officers more time to serve the community, peer-to-peer recognition, and physical improvements at the station. The cultural transformation process is just beginning in the Third District and will consist of three distinct steps: assessment, ramp-up, and implementation.
  • STANCE: IMPACT 25 and Local Advocacy: CCI is a component of Cleveland's Stand Together Against Neighborhood Crime Everyday (STANCE) initiative, which began in 2006 when Cleveland was selected to receive BJA funding to implement a Comprehensive Anti-Gang Initiative (CAGI). STANCE is collaboration consisting of comprehensive prevention, intervention, enforcement, and reentry efforts to help reduce and prevent violent crime. IMPACT 25 provides an opportunity for agencies within the Central Neighborhood to network and form partnerships with a larger group of prevention-focused organizations. It also creates a forum to advocate for increased resources from Cleveland-wide initiatives.

Other Key Partners

Cleveland Division of Police, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department, Sisters of Charity, PROMISE Neighborhood, MyCom, Peacemaker's Alliance, Lotus Executive Leadership, The Acho Group, Friendly Inn Settlement House, City of Cleveland's Lonnie Burton Recreation Center, STANCE partners, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Slavic Village P16, Say Yes to Education, The Cleveland Foundation, Northern Ohio Trauma Systems

This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2018-BJ-BX-K035 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues. 

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