Community Outreach

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Developing and Enhancing,Relationships With Communities. Through Outreach,Martha Wyatt,Community Outreach Coordinator. District of Massachusetts,Brandy Donini Melanson,Law Enforcement Coordinator. District of Massachusetts,I Introduction, For many years United States Attorneys offices USAOs have developed and fostered. relationships with law enforcement through task forces working groups and other collaborations often. via prosecutors and the Law Enforcement Coordinator LEC Similarly many USAOs have been. involved in some type of community outreach with non law enforcement entities such as non. governmental agencies educators residents community groups city and state governments and. vulnerable populations,II Importance of community outreach.
In recent years USAOs across the nation have come to understand more clearly the importance. of developing and enhancing relationships with communities It has become more common for USAOs to. engage in outreach with communities through focused programs public speaking engagements and a. variety of other forums Beyond the obvious responsibilities as public servants the federal prosecutor s. office can be a valuable resource enabling communities to enhance their prevention and intervention. strategies Additionally the relationships formed with non law enforcement can be a great benefit to the. USAOs by keeping them focused on the needs and the issues of the community further enhancing the. district s ability to carry out its mission, Research suggests that relationships can affect behavior positively or negatively USAOs. generally maintain a prosecution focused mission However as public servants and community members. an overarching responsibility even an incentive exists to contribute to the larger picture of healthier. crime free communities Community based strategies formed through strong collaborations with law. enforcement can lead to decreases in crime This fact has been demonstrated by many of the. Department s Weed and Seed sites and other community policing projects across the nation Conversely. dysfunctional relationships between law enforcement and the community can inhibit a neighborhood s. ability to make progress as evidenced by struggling Weed and Seed sites Having a staff member within. the USAOs such as a Community Outreach Coordinator to take the pulse of the community understand. the needs and maneuver through the internal politics can be a useful tool and a powerful mechanism for. enhanced prosecutions better prevention strategies and more comprehensive intervention programs. M AY 2012 U NITED S TATES A TTO RN EY S B U LLETIN 1. III Challenges with developing relationships, As many in the USAO community know no matter the size or demographics of a district. challenges are always presented with conducting community outreach Some districts find that the better. they understand the particular challenges the more effective they can be in overcoming them Some. districts may have multiple neighborhoods with different views and longstanding histories in a condensed. geographical area Understanding the dynamics and even the differences and disagreements between. surrounding communities can be a challenge and sometimes requires delicate handling In other districts. whose territory is more widely distributed outreach is an issue even in terms of getting from point A to. point B in a timely manner, In times of limited resources time management is also a factor as some staff may have to. perform multiple collateral duties particularly in smaller districts with little opportunity to leave the. office to foster trust and build relationships In addition to resource issues ethical restrictions make. outreach slightly more complicated Vetting the organization and finding appropriate strategies for. responding to resulting complications can add to the challenges making districts even more reluctant to. engage with communities,IV Method of delivery, Regardless of the challenges it goes without saying that community outreach has a place in all. USAOs The manner in which outreach is incorporated varies from district to district and depends on. resources priorities strategy and community factors From one end of a district to the other the. demographic economic and criminogenic differences are often strikingly different For example while. one community suffers from a high incidence of gang and gun related crime involving youthful. offenders another may be more prone to alcohol related offenses committed by middle aged individuals. Outreach can be carried out in a variety of ways by a number of different people Some districts. accomplish outreach solely through public speaking engagements while others have incorporated. community based tasks into the district s strategic plan Some districts have even developed and. administered specific prevention and intervention programs Community Outreach Coordinators have. been designated in some districts to focus solely on fostering relationships with the community In others. this position does not exist and the LEC is primarily responsible for both law enforcement and. community engagement In some districts outreach responsibilities are divided between multiple staff. members as either a collateral or an assigned duty according to the focus area youth violence. victim witness civil rights national security child exploitation Line prosecutors are also known to be. involved in community outreach depending on their interest and subject matter expertise. V Highlighted community outreach activities, There is no one size fits all approach to community outreach However several types of outreach.
activities are available and are important to highlight as potential options. A Public speaking engagements, In many districts the United States Attorney assumes the primary responsibility for raising. awareness about the multi faceted role of the USAO Some districts have developed canned presentations. that can be modified and delivered by the United States Attorney or other staff on short notice Engaging. in this activity not only promotes the public s awareness of what the USAO does but is also intended to. demonstrate to the community that the USAO understands the value of working with local organizations. 2 U NITED S TATES A TTO RN EY S B U LLETIN M AY 2012. in the areas of prevention education and intervention In the District of Massachusetts like in many. other districts the United States Attorney s calendar is full of speaking engagements with diverse. communities,B Community meetings, Attending and presenting information at public meetings can be a valuable tool for enhancing. relationships with community members especially when the members have diverse perceptions of the. problems in their own neighborhood These differing viewpoints can create discord and mistrust of law. enforcement that may ultimately prevent law enforcement from gathering intelligence within the. community Some districts have found it beneficial to act as a liaison through community meetings to. reduce the discord and build trust Communities typically welcome USAO involvement in their regularly. scheduled meetings It is important to note that community meetings should not be viewed or used as. opportunities to gather intelligence about a crime. Some district representatives actively attend neighborhood watch meetings while others attend. broader community meetings with various residents and members of law enforcement government and. businesses Although Weed and Seed is no longer a Department of Justice DOJ funded program some. communities continue to keep their steering committees in place to address quality of life issues and to. coordinate events in their communities USAO participation at steering committee meetings and events. not only helps to promote more in depth understanding of the issues facing the community but also offers. exposure to organizations and individuals who might not otherwise come into contact with the USAO. Meetings between USAO staff and civil rights advocacy groups and Human Rights Commissions. are also widely conducted around the nation In the last year the District of Massachusetts developed a. civil rights outreach strategy focusing specifically on meeting and building relationships with advocacy. groups The increased efforts have led directly to an increase in civil civil rights enforcement actions. C Working groups and leadership teams, Engaging the community on a particular topic through working groups or leadership teams is. another meaningful approach to outreach Meetings with these groups can be conducted in person. through roundtable style discussions and even via teleconference DOJ s Weed and Seed program was. modeled after a similar concept using a collaborative decision making body to carry out a unified. mission Other DOJ funded initiatives such as the Child Sexual Predator Program and Defending. Childhood Initiative maintain a similar focus In districts where these programs exist USAO staff have. found value in being part of a team of stakeholders educators non profit service providers parents. advocacy groups and state local federal law enforcement among others to develop comprehensive. enforcement prevention and intervention strategies Through these group efforts resources can be. leveraged gaps in services can be addressed and duplication of efforts can be avoided. In addition to working groups and leadership teams roundtable discussions have been an. effective tool for many districts particularly for the District of Massachusetts which is involved in. DOJ s initiative to enhance relationships with the Arab Muslim and Sikh communities The Anti. Terrorism Advisory Council Community Outreach Coordinator and an Assistant United States Attorney. AUSA work closely with the community on a regular basis to foster trust and discuss strategies to. engage and provide a voice for the community, M AY 2012 U NITED S TATES A TTO RN EY S B U LLETIN 3. D Youth engagement, Many districts are actively engaged in outreach with schools and universities through mock trials.
and career events In the Southern District of Texas AUSAs participate as classroom speakers at Law. Day at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice in Houston They provide insight on. legal careers and on the functions of the USAO Also in that district AUSAs participate with other. members of the community in an annual college and career night at a middle school. In some districts USAO staff engage young people in focused discussions at schools YMCAs. Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters in order to dispel myths to answer questions and to. assist young people in making healthy choices Some districts like the Southern District of Texas are. involved in coordinating mentors for Drug Education for Youth Camps and year round activities In the. District of Massachusetts the USAO in partnership with law enforcement and educators has developed. a variety of youth engagement activities for middle school students in a city experiencing a surge in gang. violence The project Your Future Your Decision focuses on responsible decision making skills and. includes a resource fair and a variety of focused presentations This project originated from the vision of. an AUSA who had been involved in the prosecution of dozens of federal and state gang members within. that particular city Through his interactions with the defendants the AUSA recognized how a poor. support system the lack of family support and unhealthy role models affected the students ability to. make responsible decisions, Some Districts also host an annual youth day event that provides children with a positive. experience and exposes them to all aspects of law enforcement such as vehicles helicopters fast boats. SWAT units K 9s and EOD robots This exposure can be a valuable opportunity to diminish the. negative perceptions of law enforcement that some children have developed by growing up in a violent or. an unhealthy household,E Prevention and intervention programs. Some USAOs have created successful prevention and intervention programs Some of these. programs were done independently and some were developed in collaboration with other law. enforcement and community stakeholders The District of Massachusetts has created a number of these. programs through its Project Safe Neighborhoods PSN Program In partnership with a local non profit. and United States Probation Office USPO the district produced a realistic educational video titled. Mandatory Sentence to demonstrate the consequences of a young person with a criminal history. choosing to carry a firearm The video received the PSN National Award for Outstanding Outreach. Project and has been distributed nationally Mandatory Sentence is used by the USAO in partnership. with local district courts in juvenile offender meetings by the Department of Youth Services in. presentations to at risk and court involved youth by the USPO in its youth outreach programs and by. many local school and community organizations with an eye toward raising awareness of the. consequences of bad choices, Also in the District of Massachusetts work is underway with several local organizations to. provide a method of giving a voice to those who are affected by violence While this area clearly applies. to victims it is well established that significant numbers of community members who suffer the effects. of violence do not fall into the category of either victim or witness Residents of all ages who live in. Community Outreach Coordinator District of Massachusetts Brandy Donini Melanson Law Enforcement Coordinator District of Massachusetts I Introduction For many years United States Attorneys offices USAOs have developed and fostered relationships with law enforcement through task forces working groups and other collaborations often via prosecutors and the Law Enforcement Coordinator

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