The Lowell Police Department is embarking on a comprehensive restructuring of crime control efforts. Our restructuring galvanizes the power of citizens who must take responsibility for their neighborhoods. We build heavily on the community development movement in both its economic and criminal justice forms, on community policing in both its street work and managerial forms, on the most classic traditional work in probation and parole, on the best work in community-based justice and on the emerging concepts of restorative justice.
Our goal - making Lowell the safest city of its size in the nation - is a significant challenge which requires an effective police department, but even the best of departments cannot do it alone. Unless other criminal justice agencies are equally committed, guilty offenders arrested by police can go unpunished, unsupervised and undeterred from committing future crime.
In an effort to foster this comprehensive approach to crime control, the LPD brought together the leaders of Lowell's criminal justice agencies, school department, and commerce as well as representatives from C & J and Harvard Kennedy School of Govt., forming the Lowell Safety First Working Group. The Working Group began by focusing its attention on the pervasive problem of serious assaults which affect the quality of life in Lowell on a day-to-day basis. After a study of serious assaults (Introduce the Amy & Gillian research.) in Lowell identified opportunities for the agencies to reduce those assaults, it became apparent we must focus on three areas:
In over half of the assaults identified in the study, the victim and offender were involved in a domestic relationship. Over 87% of the domestic assaults occur in or around the residence of the victim and/or offender. The statistics reveal areas needing further research. Thus a task force was formed consisting of representatives from the police, probation, Department of Social Services, Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and social services agencies. They will conduct and analyze a study on domestic assaults, identify opportunities for intervention, and develop strategies for reducing these incidents.
We are in the process of reviewing the history of 500 domestic violence offenders. Preliminary analysis reveals that that there is a high percentage of offenders who have a history of violent activity and/or substance abuse, in addition to the current domestic-related offense. This information is being further analyzed in order to direct future action. This future action may include the identification of particular offenders and a structured response from key individuals from the criminal justice agencies involved.
A second task force made up of police, probation, district attorney, Department of Social Services, Department of Youth Services, youth workers and schools is working to tackle the rising and challenging problem of juvenile assaults. A striking finding of the serious assaults study is the involvement of people under 17 years old in non-domestic assaults. One-quarter of all non-domestic victims, and one-fifth of non-domestic offenders are under the age of 17.
The goal of the project is to reduce the number of assaults and violence in and around the high school area, and to ensure a safe summer for the community as a whole. The objective of the project is to work with a small number of young people who have been identified by the above agencies as in need of intervention services.
The task force identified and shared information on twenty young offenders who are in high risk of re-offending and need immediate intervention. They have been provided with placement in after-school and summer programs, information on full and part-time employment, and referred to appropriate counseling services. In conjunction with providing these services, youths will be closely monitored to ensure compliance with agreed upon rules.
Although still in its infancy stage, eager community leaders and public agency officials are committed to this collaborative initiative. The Neighborhood Group was convened under the premise that crime occurs in specific locations and is committed by the same offenders. For example, neighbors in the Highlands area are most likely to know the locations of crime and the perpetrators in their area. A community focus group has met to identify concerns, establish priorities, introduce Safety First, and begin developing a comprehensive strategy to effectively address the concerns.
The next step in the process is to reconvene the neighborhood focus group with police officers assigned to the same area. At this meeting officers and residents will work together to create a shared strategy for addressing prioritized concerns of the neighbors.