NEWARK, NJ (CBSNewYork) – Newark, New Jersey, is playing an important role in an early initiative of its kind to help prevent violence in communities in the United States
In downtown Newark – let’s call it the intersection of public safety and public health – is a refreshed approach to community police that puts a stamp on the national map.
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“We are at a turning point,” said Aqeela Sherrills of the Newark Community Street Team, which is supported by the same scenes as the Newark Police Department and often reacts to it.
Sherrills told CBS2’s Jessica Layton that this is a crucial crossroads especially in color communities.
On Thursday, Sherrills joined the leaders of the country’s major cities in announcing the first national association of programs to prevent violence at the community level.
“The focus is on developing complementary strategies to urban policing in order to find a real solution to the public safety conversation,” said Sherrills. “All of our respective cities have seen tremendous decreases in violence and crime because of our work.”
It’s a collaboration with places like Chicago, Oakland, and Los Angelis, which have changed their approach to achieving peace on the streets after massive protests and racist tension.
“This is community security in the twenty-first century, and community security cannot be taken from the outside in. It has to grow from the inside out,” said Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is leading.
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Last year, the city diverted 5% of the police budget to the Bureau of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery to better understand issues such as homelessness and mental health in the community.
“They reduce the need to have a police officer on every corner,” said Baraka.
The safest neighborhoods aren’t the ones with police on every corner, he said.
“These are neighborhoods with solid families, jobs available, and adequate education systems that offer social services,” Baraka said.
“We put tremendous stress and pressure on our cops to be counselors, therapists, teachers and everything. You don’t have the ability to do this, ”said Sherrills.
The next step is to lobby for money that will be made available to the state under the US rescue plan to support this community work.
Sherrills said given the conflict we saw last summer, the government couldn’t afford not to invest in this cause.
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Jessica Layton of CBS2 contributed to this report.