A new initiative aiming to reduce crime in neighborhoods and connect residents to resources officially launched Saturday in Dallas.
The Dallas Violence Interrupters Partnership is a collaboration between Child Poverty Action Lab, Allyn Media and Urban Specialists. It was a recommendation of Mayor Eric Johnson’s Safer Communities Task Force in January as one of four approaches the city could take to reduce the high rate of violent crime in the city aside from the work of the police.
The partnership was introduced Saturday, as program leaders declared a corner of East Ledbetter Street in southeast Oak Cliff a “peace zone."
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In the coming weeks, Antong Lucky with Urban Specialists said the group planned to do neighborhood cleanups, programs for children and introduce themselves door-to-door.
“This is to say no more are we going to be in a coma. No longer in a coma. We’re waking this neighborhood up to say we need you to be civically engaged in your own community,” Lucky said. “What you see right now, these are the defibrillators to a community that had a heart attack. We’re going to shock it back to life. That’s what this is about."
The partnership hires and trains “mentorventionalists” from targeted neighborhoods, some of them former gang members and ex-offenders. The plan is to send mentors into neighborhoods to intervene with local youth in hopes of decreasing violence.
District 4 councilmember Carolyn King Arnold said the strategy could be effective, because they may be able to reach people in ways elected city leaders and others may not.
“They’re here because some of them have had previous experience, brush in with the law,” King Arnold said. “They simply want to give back to the community and help those individuals understand there is hope at the end of the tunnel.”
The partnership comes as welcome news to businesses like Williams Chicken. Joshua Williams said the company has been in Dallas for more than three decades, with its first location being the one in southeast Oak Cliff.
“We understand a community such as this, it’s going to have its temperament and it’s the unfortunate reality. So we’re just trying to make that as smooth as possible,” Williams said. “This is a wonderful turnout, I love seeing it here. Just letting people know yes you are noticed.”
Also present at Saturday’s event was District 8 councilmember Tennell Adkins who said aside from reducing crime, their goal is to connect people to the proper resources.
“If you don’t know how to get your street fixed, we’re going to help you. You need some resources from the city, we’re going to help you,” Adkins said. “You need something from the county, from the state, we got all these people from this neighborhood right here who need to know and understand how the process works.”
While the initiative is launching in southeast Oak Cliff, Lucky said they planned to expand to other neighborhoods.
“I want the residents to know that this collective effort, everybody you see out here loves you, cares about you, and we’re here for you. That’s what I want you to know,” he said.
The door-to-door introductions begin Monday, according to Lucky.