In Atlanta, the police recognized a disturbing trend – every August, there’s a sharp spike in the murder rate. During the other 11 months of the year, “escalating dispute” is the top cause of homicides in the city. In August, it’s domestic violence – and the number of homicides nearly doubles from an average of around 12 to more than 20.
Police Chief Darin Schierbaum called upon the public during a news conference to be a part of the solution. His request was simple:
- If you see something, say something.
- Report domestic violence when it happens.
- Work with police when they are investigating the crime.
These may seem obvious, but measures like this make a huge impact because it takes a community to fight crime. Unfortunately, due to bad policies in the past, many communities don’t trust the police.
During the “Stop and Frisk” era in New York City, the NYPD illegally stopped more than two million citizens. Ninety percent of the charges brought through proactive policing were dropped and served to erode the public trust of the police, particularly in low-income neighborhoods.
Schierbaum is calling for a different type of policing, one that relies on the community instead of intimidating it. Community policing — the work of actively involving community leaders, members and organizations – has proven to be highly effective in reducing crime. Instead of turning citizens against police, it brings law enforcement and citizens together to the same side to work toward a common goal.
No community wants a spike in murder and no community wants to see spouses harmed and killed from domestic violence. By working toward a common goal of safer neighborhoods, police and communities can work together to ensure the police are spending their time where they are most needed.
This is a two way street. Police must work to build relationships with community leaders and citizens need to be open to trusting the police. Proactive policing harms public trust, so local police forces need to take a look at their policies and keep proactive policing like “Stop and Frisk” out of their playbook.
Community policing, which is what Schierbaum is calling for in Atlanta, builds trust and helps keep everyone, including police officers, safer as they do their job.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence, you can report it at the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.