For Immediate Release: Tuesday, March 1, 2016
McDuffie Contact: Dionne Calhoun, (202) 297-0152 or email@example.com
Today, the Council of the District of Columbia unanimously passed the “Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016” (NEAR Act) introduced by Councilmember McDuffie.
The NEAR Act is an innovative, data-driven approach that establishes the District as a national leader in crime prevention policy. Grounded in the principle that violent crime is a public health crisis, the NEAR Act treats crime’s root causes.
“Implementing the NEAR Act means effective and sustainable crime prevention for District residents,” said Councilmember McDuffie. “One homicide in the District is one too many. We know that we cannot simply arrest our way out of crime; prevention is key. This comprehensive bill is a step in the right direction.”
The NEAR Act will establish an Office of Violence Prevention and Health Equity (OVPHE). Similar to a component of the Cure Violence model, OVPHE is a recognition of the years of research demonstrating that violence is a public health problem. OVPHE will require the city to develop and implement a public health strategy using risk assessment tools, cognitive and family based therapy, and service coordination to combat the spread of violence. Such coordination will include placing clinicians in every hospital’s emergency department to immediately respond to victims of crime and prevent the escalation of violence.
The NEAR Act also creates an Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE). Based on the successful Richmond, CA model, the goal of the office will be to identify teenagers and young adults at the highest risk for committing or being a victim of violent crimes, for participation in a stipend based program involving life planning, trauma informed therapy, and mentorship. The program will require its participants to create and execute a successful lifeplan, moving them away from the pitfalls of violent crime. Evidencing the potential success of ONSE, as reported on CNN by Fareed Zakaria, between 2007 and 2014, Richmond experienced a 76% reduction in firearm related homicides.
Additionally, The NEAR Act addresses the intersection of mental health disorders, substance abuse, and crime. “We know that those impacted by mental health disorders, and substance abuse are often in regular contact with the police due to unmet healthcare and housing needs,” said McDuffie. There is an opportunity to assist individuals in a more comprehensive way. The NEAR Act commits to that by establishing a Community Crime Prevention Team Program to pair mental health clinicians and housing outreach specialists from the Department of Behavioral Health and Department of Human Services with police officers to identify individuals in need of assistance, ultimately connecting them with wrap-around services.
The legislation also requires the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to provide yearly training on preventing biased-based profiling; community policing; and the use of force in their mandatory continuing education/training. Moreover, MPD is required to collect stop and frisk and use of force data in an effort to promote transparency and improve relations between the police and the community.
The NEAR Act also requires stringent reporting on outcomes. “As I have said all along, the District should only fund programs that work,” stated McDuffie. I believe in evidence-based approaches and will monitor and review the effectiveness of each of these initiatives to ensure that District residents’ tax dollars are being spent in an efficient and effective manner.”
“I applaud the advocates and experts who helped us craft this meaningful legislation. I thank the residents for voicing their public safety concerns, testifying at the hearings, and for their active engagement throughout this entire process. I also want to thank all of my colleagues for supporting this bill.”
See WAMU’s three part series on fighting crime.