As a neighborhood service officer, Flint resident Rudy Dawkins is tasked with serving the very area in which he lives: the 3rd Ward.
To many in his neighborhood, he’s a familiar face and a trustworthy liaison between police and north Flint residents.
“The neighborhood service officers are important because they allow Flint police to facilitate the community outreach they (previously) couldn’t do,” Dawkins said. “And, we provide a resource for citizens to be able to communicate with the Flint Police Department.”
Two Flint police Neighborhood Service Centers have been opened in north Flint to serve as hubs for interaction between police and the community.
Flint Police Chief Tim Johnson and Mayor Karen Weaver were among those to herald the opening of one of the centers at the Neighborhood Engagement Hub, 3216 Martin Luther King Ave. in Flint’s 3rd Ward. The other north Flint center is located at 4535 Martin Luther King Ave. in the 1st Ward.
Residents can come to the centers to talk to a police officer or a non-sworn neighborhood service officer, or to file a complaint on the center’s computer. The neighborhood service officers handle basic civic and public safety services – such as providing crime prevention information, documenting blight complaints, or filing police reports – to free up sworn police officers for community policing efforts and law enforcement duties.
The Neighborhood Service Centers are part of the North End Community Crime Strategy, a three-year partnership between Flint police and the Flint Police Foundation that is funded by $1,087,207 from the Ruth Mott Foundation, awarded in October 2015.
In addition to the service centers, the grant also funded the development of Flint community CompStat (“Computer Comparison Statistics”) methodology, which identifies crime patterns and clusters and provides accurate and timely intelligence for police. Other features of the strategy include Street Smart Software and increased community involvement through Citizens Radio Patrol and the service centers.
The increased use of technology is one way the Flint Police Department can improve its operational efficiency and effectiveness in the face of limited resources and a high-crime environment. Another way is with increased community involvement, which is facilitated by the opening of the Neighborhood Service Centers.
In partnership with research partner Wayne State University, the Neighborhood Service Centers host regular CompStat meetings that are open to residents and provide up-to-date data on crime hot spots and notable progress, as well as an opportunity for residents to report information to police.
At the service centers, residents can interact with police “face-to-face, in their own neighborhoods, without coming down to the police department,” Chief Johnson said. “The trust that the citizens had in us before, we want it back and we’re getting it back now. That’s why you see crime going down.”
Safety is one of the Ruth Mott Foundation’s four priorities, as identified by residents during the Foundation’s strategic planning sessions in 2015-16. Residents indicated community policing would help make north Flint safe. The Flint community policing grant was one of the first issued under the Foundation’s north Flint strategy.
Neighborhood Service Officer Erik Willard, a 6th Ward resident, said the work done by NSOs is already starting to benefit the police department.
“A lot of times it frees up police to tackle other areas,” he said. “Instead of police responding to those more minor complaints, it can be forwarded to us and it frees police up to take care of the larger issues.”