San Antonio, Texas

Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation

San Antonio, Texas

BCJI Funding Year: FY2019

BCJI Awardee: WestCare Texas, Inc.

Research Partner: Community Epidemiology Workgroup

Focus Area: Eastside - Population 75,159

Challenges: Violent Crime, Drug Trafficking, Drug-Related Crime

Neighborhood Characteristics

San Antonio's Eastside, home to the city's first and largest community of African American residents, is also home of the Eastside Promise Zone (EPZ), a 22-square-mile area of 19 contiguous census tracts and 10 zip codes. The population is 62 percent Hispanic/Latino, 26 percent Black/African American, and 8 percent Caucasian.

Promise Zones were identified in 2014 to allow local leaders in high-poverty areas to work strategically with the federal government to reduce crime, boost economic activity and job growth, improve educational opportunities, and leverage private investment for improved quality of life. These are opportunities in short supply in the Eastside, the most neglected area of in San Antonio for economic development, infrastructure development, and social resources. EPZ census tracts exceed the San Antonio and national poverty rates by approximately 14 percent. The area has become a hot spot for drug trafficking, drug use, and related crime. 

However, the EPZ area hosts several assets. They have 16 active neighborhood associations and a strong faith-based charitable sector that includes 62 churches and 52 non-profits. The area also hosts a Drug-Free Community grantee and received an Eastside Promise Neighborhood Implementation grant, as well as a Choice Neighborhood Initiative Implementation grant.

Planning Phase

The lead organization, WestCare Texas (WCTX), will utilize the evidence-based Substance Abuse and Mental Health (SAMHSA) Strategic Prevention Framework for planning during all project phases. They aim to implement realiistic and attainable strategies, objectives, and outcomes that address specific crime drivers identified in the planning process. Strategies and objectives will include a continuum of solutions and coordinated resources of partners from multiple funding streams. The project activities will work towards sustainable results, including coordinated enforcement, prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood revitalization strategies that build the capacity of residents, partners, and law enforcement.

WCTX's role will include:

  • Providing project management and financial oversight of the BCJI grant;
  • Leading, managing, coordinating, and maintaining positive partner and resident relations;
  • Implementing and evaluating grant activities;
  • Facilitating a steering committee, a cross-sector team, and resident engagement meetings;
  • Establishing a case management and data collection information system;
  • Providing a capacity-building training for residents;
  • Conducting activities with law enforcement that will further positive police-community-relationships;
  • Securing additional resources and leveraging existing resources to successfully implement strategies, programs, and activities;
  • Providing Neighborhoods First Alliance workers and Public Allies to engage residents; and
  • Mobilizing and organizing neighborhood associations to implement evidence and neighborhood-based crime prevention and reduction strategies.

The site plans to implement multiple and diverse strategies across various sectors with a common goal of increasing resident and community involvement, as well as changing the internal factors, such as behaviors, and the external factors, such as the physical environments in which chronic crime flourishes.

Implementation Strategies

The San Antonio BCJI site’s overarching goal is to prevent and reduce crime in San Antonio’s Eastside Promise Zone by August 2023. To accomplish this goal, the site will implement diverse strategies in the project area to increase resident and community involvement, as well as changing the behavioral and environmental factors that lead to chronic crime. The San Antonio site will focus on three outcomes that support their goal of reducing crime in the Eastside Promise Zone, each with corresponding objectives and activities.

Outcome 1: Increase the participation of residents and community stakeholders in neighborhood association and partnership meetings. 

  • Develop a list of key organizations and individuals to join the BCJI project. 
  • Increase the number of data sources from multiple partner agencies. 
  • Identify existing gaps and needs along with available community resources to fill the gaps. 
  • Conduct the “Light Up the Night” Early Action Project, which distributes porch lights to Eastside residents to reduce nighttime criminal activity in areas with reduced lighting. 
  • Apply for asset forfeiture from the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) to fund police-community summits. 
  • Partner with the U.S. Attorney’s Office Project Safe Neighborhoods program to leverage their resources and gun violence reduction strategies. 

Outcome 2: Reduce property crime in the Eastside Promise zone using data provided by law enforcement. 

  • Geo-map the project area to identify areas of concentrated crime. 
  • Distribute “Hot Spot” cards while conducting hot spot policing activities in the identified areas. 
  • Conduct “Paint-A-Thons” to paint houses and buildings in the project area. 
  • Engage residents in the project area by holding block parties and house meetings. 
  • Work with the San Antonio Police Department and pawn shops to help residents engrave their personal property to reduce theft potential. 
  • Demolish or repurpose 10 commercial and residential buildings used for drug activity in the project area. 
  • Increase neighborhood participation in National Night Out. 

Outcome 3: Increase positive perceptions of police-community relations by conducting annual police-community surveys for community members and law enforcement officers. 

  • Conduct “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” training with police and community members to explore each other’s roles in police-community interactions. 
  • Conduct “Lunch and Learn” trainings between community residents, behavioral health providers, and local law enforcement agencies. 
  • Publicize monthly police substation crime update meetings and increase resident participation. 
  • Establish physician training in partnership with the Drug Enforcement Administration regarding the over-prescription of drugs.

Other Key Partners

San Antonio Police Department, San Antonio Fighting Back, Neighborhoods First Alliance, San Antonio Code Enforcement, U.S. Attorney's Office, AmeriCorps Public Allies, Chrysalis Ministries, Crosspoint Treatment Center, Ella Austin Community Center, Winner's Circle Tactical Solutions, San Antonio Growth for the Eastside, Bexar County Reentry, San Antonio Housing Authority, Family Services Association, Bexar County Child Welfare Board, Harvard Place/Eastlawn Neighborhood Association, Denver Heights Neighborhood Association, Bethel Prevention Coalition, George Gervin Academy, Bexar Community Supervision and Corrections, Beat AIDS

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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