Monday, August 17, 2009

Avondale, Uptown, CPD win $15K national revitalization award

At a ceremony Friday at the Avondale Pride Center, the Avondale Community Council, Uptown Consortium, the Cincinnati Police Department and other neighborhood partners were honored with the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award in recognition of their work to reduce crime and spur housing and economic development.

The $15,000 Neighborhood Revitalization Award, sponsored by the MetLife Foundation and administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), was one of only 11 presented to the more than 650 applicants from low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, putting the awardees in the top 2 percent of community-police partnerships nationwide.

"The good news is that, around the country, community groups and police agencies are teaming up and sharing ideas and resources to address this challenge," said MetLife agency sales director Eric Gilliam. "We can all be proud that, here in Cincinnati, partnerships between community groups and police are thriving and building positive results. Equally important, they are building community, opportunity, and hope at a time when they are needed most."

LISC's Community Safety Initiative supports strategic alliances between police and community developers to reduce crime, disorder and fear in troubled neighborhoods. LISC has administered the MetLife Foundation program since 2002.

"We can't do that in places that are unsafe, or even perceived as being unsafe," said LISC president and CEO Michael Rubinger. "And that's why this program – the Community Safety Initiative – has risen to such an important position among the programs that we offer across the country. It really is the foundation of what we do."

Cincinnati city manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said that the partnership, which has grown to include the Avondale Youth Council, Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, the Department of Community Development, the Community Police Partnering Center, CeaseFire Cincinnati and LISC, was born in 2007 during the City's Neighborhood Enhancement Program.

"It has to be a situation where we work in concert, in a coordinated fashion, with multiple stakeholders," he said. "The City doing things on its own, without a partnership with the community stakeholders, is a model whose days are gone by."

Crime goes down

Through the identification, mapping, and analysis of neighborhood crime "hot spots" – in addition to the placement of surveillance cameras and stepped-up police patrols – the partnership has helped decrease overall crime by 13 percent.

Quality of life crimes in the City's fourth-largest neighborhood have decreased by 17 percent, and serious crimes involving firearms have decreased by 41 percent.

MetLife's recognition is the fourth community-police partnership award for the City in the past four years.

"It's unusual for a City to get two, and this is our fourth," said Cincinnati Police Department chief Tom Streicher. "And the reason for that is because people like all of you that are here today and fully committed understand that there's not a light switch, formula or easy way to get where we want to go. And that is, as a progressive City, a progressive neighborhood and a progressive community, it's success that's celebrated in small steps. Those small steps continue to build on each other and, all of a sudden, we're where we want to be."

Streicher credited the Uptown Consortium with helping to raise $90,000 for City surveillance cameras, and, as a result, Avondale will be the first to receive additional cameras.

Award money will also help fund additional patrols in the neighborhood, Streicher said.

"Lots of people spend a lot of time studying problems, talking about problems, and considering solutions," Hanover said. "But things don't happen unless people act. We will continue to take action where action is needed in order to improve the quality of life in the community."

Senator shows commitment

State Senator Eric Kearney (D-9th), owner of Cincinnati Herald publisher Sesh Communications, refused to let the drug boys run him out of the neighborhood.

Instead, he remains committed to the neighborhood where his wife grew up and where he was baptized.

That commitment can be seen in a brand new office building for the Herald, under construction on Burnet Avenue.

"All of these people coming together, lending their expertise and support and resources and finances, have really changed Avondale," Kearney said. "It wasn't so long ago that, when we moved our newspaper on Burnet, that literally I would walk out the door and run into a drug transaction. But what's happening now is that there's new businesses coming, the area is much safer, and hopefully we'll see new jobs and new families. I'm excited to see how the next few years will turn out."

According to plan

Avondale Community Council president Patricia Milton said that the neighborhood's efforts are all part of the Avondale Vision Plan.

"Safety is at the core of all of the efforts to improve the quality of life for Avondale's residents," she said. "This helps us to implement the vision – to make Avondale a better place to work, live, play, and worship. Avondale is in the midst of a vital revitalization."

Uptown Consortium president and CEO Tony Brown agreed.

"If we fail to address safety, all of the positive things happening in Avondale – the new buildings, the new housing, the new businesses – then all of these wonderful partnerships will fail," he said. "Our efforts in 'bricks and sticks' must be supported and integrated with our efforts to reach Avondale's hearts and souls to make Avondale safer and more welcoming. Those who call Avondale home should expect nothing less."

'A new tomorrow'

"A new tomorrow is no longer just a dream, but a reality, complete with new brick and mortar, revived hope among youth, a regeneration of community purpose," said Ozie Davis, who once headed LISC's Community Safety Initiative and now works with the Avondale Youth Council. "Let's keep at it."

Dohoney pledged the City's help in continuing the positive momentum.

"The neighborhood is on track to bring in new jobs, new investment, new economic development," he said. "And I'm pleased to say that the City will continue to be a partner with the neighborhood, with all of the stakeholders, in order to move things forward."

And, of course, every neighborhood requires a little cheerleading and salesmanship as it tries to turn the corner.

"If you're looking for a community to call your own, check out Avondale!" Milton said. "It's a friendly community with lots of amenities, and the housing stock here you'll find nowhere else in Cincinnati."