When it comes to safe neighborhoods, Utah leaders want to be more like New York City.
They're not joking, either. Since Rudolph Giuliani has been mayor of New York, crimes of all types have dropped dramatically. New York has seen a decrease in arrests for murder, while Salt Lake City's numbers have risen substantially. New York murders alone dropped from 2,000 to 780 a year. The Big Apple has reduced crime more than any city, large or small, in the nation.Recently, Utah community and religious leaders gathered to tape a two-hour Governor's Conference for Community Leaders: Safe Neighborhoods, which will be broadcast Saturday, March 14, at 9 a.m. on KUED Ch. 7 as part of a 30-site teleconference on crime reduction.
Besides discussions at individual teleconference sites, the program features comments by Giuliani, former Idaho Attorney General Larry Echohawk and Gov. Mike Leavitt and his wife Jacalyn, a look at three community programs that are working in Utah, safety tips and suggestions from community leaders like Salt Lake Police Chief Ruben Ortega and Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Valdez.
Giuliani credits curtailing even very small crimes with reducing the crime rate in America's largest, and formerly most dangerous city. He calls it the "broken window" theory. Just as a broken window is an invitation to vandals, when you get rid of petty theft, aggressive panhandling and property crimes you send a message that large crimes won't be tolerated, either.
"We concentrated on things that have been ignored in the past," he said.
Increasing emphasis on "small crimes" also gave the community the courage and confidence to tackle larger problems, said Giuliani.
Key to that effort was community involvement. Police stations set up precinct councils to bring in community ideas and interaction. The city held more town meetings. Neighborhoods were encouraged to start community watch programs. And the idea of "reciprocity, social contracts, responsibility and accountability" have become something of a city mantra, Giuliani said.
Echohawk said the future depends on turning "our hearts to our children." The hands that hold their small hands must be "capable, strong and gentle" because those little hands will one day drive the buses, pilot the space shuttles, shepherd communities. More important, theirs are the hands that will one day hold smaller hands, which will forge another generation's future.
Sister Margo Cain of Catholic Community Services and Elder Alexander Morrison, president of the Utah North Area for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, co-chaired the conference. Their shared message was a simple one: Individuals can make a dif-ference.
"Ordinary citizens can take control of their destinies," Morrison said. "People across the state can and must take charge of their communities."
Caine believes that "local problems respond best to local solutions."
Among those local solutions to which Utah leaders point with pride are Neighborhood Watch programs, mentoring and youth court. Neighborhood Watch programs have reduced crime in areas as different from each other as inner-city Rose Park and rural Kamas.
In Cedar City, college-age adults have been paired with children as mentors and friends. According to Valdez, the Juvenile Court system also pairs children who have delinquency and neglect issues with responsible adults. The effect has been reduced recidivism.
And the youth courts in Nephi and Logan, which cooperate with Juvenile Courts, give those who commit minor offenses consequences for misdeeds and positive peer pressure. In the youth courts, high school students hand out penalties like community service hours for infractions.
The goal of these programs - and the discussions that will take place around the state on March 14, is to create communities where "kids walk home from school in groups just for the fun of it, not for the fear of it," Gov. Mike Leavitt said.
For information on where community meetings are being held March 14, call 538-3985.