In collaboration with local police, non-law enforcement organizations such as offices of violence prevention, schools, and city and county public health departments could receive gunfire data and analytics about where and when gun violence occurs, ensuring that appropriate community resources can be deployed to offer immediate and lasting support while helping address core issues that drive crime.
Yet SoundThinking’s Data for Good program, and its ability to assist non-law enforcement organizations in addressing violent crime and improving community safety goes far beyond gunshot detection. ResourceRouter™, a patrol and analyst tool that automates the planning for all Part 1 crime data across an entire jurisdiction daily, can pinpoint the highest areas of crime risk by specific place and time. This ensures patrol officers and community organizations can quickly and precisely direct their limited resources to the most at-risk communities and individuals.
A New Paradigm for Community Outreach in Springfield, IL
The City of Springfield, Illinois is a SoundThinking customer and a big believer in using a technology-driven approach to community outreach. This was reflected in an innovative event they set up in October 2022 called Community Connections. According to Springfield Chief of Police Ken Scarlette, the Community Connections event had the goal in mind of “revitalizing this specific area [and] showing the most vulnerable residents of our community that we truly care about them and are willing to give them the services that they need.”
Created with the intent of delivering social, health, and economic resources to residents in need, the event adopted three primary objectives:
- Outreach and Education
- Addressing Resident Questions
- Fostering Collaborations between City and Outside Agencies
From the outset, ResourceRouter was critical to the city’s efforts. All invitees came from a 49-square-block area identified by ResourceRouter as especially high-risk using documented crime data, as well as variables commonly associated with higher crime.
A Mayor’s Office Leads the Way
To achieve the goals of the Community Connections event, numerous city agencies and over 100 city employees participated. This included Springfield’s Office of the Mayor, the Department of Public Works, Planning and Economic Development, the Police and Fire Department, and the Public School District. Outside groups also took part, including leading healthcare organization Memorial Health, Lincoln Library, as well as The Outlet, a mentorship organization for young men ages 8-22.
Additionally, while the event was happening, law enforcement and non-law enforcement stakeholders broke out into several groups and went door-to-door across the 49-square-block radius to survey residents about how they could best help address their needs.
When putting together community-focused events, achieving measurable results is critically important. The city of Springfield decided to track outcomes as they related to the number of fulfilled work requests, changes in the number of homeowners vs. renters in the area, and overall crime improvement.
Public Works as a Critical Foundation
Alongside the Office of the Mayor, the city’s Department of Public Works played a vital role in the success of the Community Connections event. Three weeks before its kick-off, public works launched an initiative to clean up debris from the city’s streets. Based on research showing that neighborhood clean-up can reduce gun violence in some cases by 29 percent, city employees gathered everything from ordinary trash to larger items such as abandoned couches. Clean-up continued through the day of the event, with the police and fire departments assisting public works in tidying the city streets, as well as placing door hangers on homes.
Public Works also played an outsized role in coordinating and facilitating the delivery of services. Using its Cityworks system, the department recorded the results of each citizen survey and simultaneously determined if their needs could be met on the spot by an on-site city agency. In cases where services could not be provided immediately (e.g., street beautification and/or clean-up) the department routed the request to the appropriate office and monitored for completion.
Partnership with City Schools
Protection of vulnerable populations is a key objective in any community, and in Springfield, police and city officials took immediate notice of the fact that three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school were located within the 49-square block high-risk area. Recognizing the traumatic effects of gun violence on youth, the city’s Public Schools joined the event to support children and their families.
Springfield Public Schools offers a pair of resources. The first, called Family and Community Engagement (FACE) is founded on going into at-risk communities and making sure that school children’s needs are being met at home—not just at school. Recognizing that teachers can only influence what happens in the classroom, the program leverages federal Title 1 dollars to hire outreach workers to work with families in helping children get to school, pay for textbooks, receive tutoring, and other vital resources.
The other program is called The Outlet. As previously mentioned, The Outlet is an independent organization that partners with middle and high schools and is meant to be embedded in the schools. Based on a mentorship model, the organization identifies at-risk boys and provides them with the tools they need to move into healthy adulthood.
In 2023, Springfield’s community outreach initiatives show no sign of slowing down. “As long as I’m sitting in this seat, we’re going to be out in the community making sure they understand that we’re here to help, all that we can provide for them, and getting together with our other community partners to make that happen,” said Chief of the Springfield Fire Department Brandon Blough.
Watch the video about the Springfield Community Connections event to learn more: