Continuing a desired trend, overall crime in the city dropped another 6 percent in the first half of 2014. Total crime is down 36 percent over the last three and a half years, and violent crime is down 44 percent since its highs in 2008.
“It’s great to see the efforts of many, including our police force and partners like Roca, paying off,” said City Manager Jay Ash. “I can’t say enough good things about all those who are working together, perhaps like none other in the country, to reduce and eliminate crime here while working to elevate the safety of our residents and the livability of our community.”
Predicted Chief Brian Kyes, “When you operate as we do on the philosophy that one crime being committed is one too many, my satisfaction on our plummeting statistics is tempered by my knowledge that even more needs to be done. Having said that, we’re showing, the Chelsea Police Department and our many partners, that we’re able to continue to achieve public safety gains, and that gives me reasons to be very optimistic that additional gains will be secured into the future.”
Ash and Kyes, who have partnered to lead the City’s anti-crime efforts since the latter’s elevation to police chief at the end of 2007, say there are numerous factors contributing to the decrease in crime. One factor is certainly resources, with the City increasing the Police Department by 16 positions, or 18 percent, since Kyes became chief.
“Our manpower levels are making a huge difference, allowing us to deploy specialized units that address the best practices of prevention and intervention, while maintaining sufficient strength to undertake more traditional policing,” informed Kyes.
Among those best practices is the establishment of the Street Robbery Task Force, organized in early 2013 to look for crime before it happens and put would-be street criminals on notice that uniformed and plain clothes police officers were more than just watching them.
“All our officers do a great job, but our Street Robbery Task Force is really allowing us to be at our very best by giving us the manpower necessary to get out of our cars and interact with law abiding citizens and those who may be ready to cross the line into something more nefarious. Our officers are interviewing hundreds of people, especially young men, on a weekly basis, and are making sure everyone knows they are around…and that is making a huge difference,” reported Ash.
In addition to manpower, which both Ash and Kyes acknowledge is a function of strong support from the City Council and the positive work of the City’s economic development and finance teams, the two also went out of their way to praise Roca.
“The relationship between ROCA and the Police Department has been a ‘game-changer.’ We set joint goals, communicate regularly and train together to maximize our overriding goals of increasing safety in the community while promoting a better way of life for young people that may have been mixed up in bad things,” revealed Kyes.
“Roca has received the world’s largest pay-for-success contract to replicate elsewhere what is happening here in Chelsea. It’s one of the most exciting things to come in the area of violence reduction, and it has started here. Governor (Deval) Patrick is supporting the effort, Wall Street is investing in it, and public policy and top law enforcement officials from around the country and world are all watching and learning from it,” boasted Ash.
Through the Roca/CPD relationship, young men, typically ages 17-24 with violent pasts, are engaged in behavior-changing interactions that have a track-able path and measurable results. Violence, repeat offenses and incarcerations are down significantly in that cohort, which, in turn, reduces the amount of crime in the community.
“We’re honored to have such a great relationship with the Police Department and the confidence of special leaders like City Manager Ash and Governor Patrick. Our model is working, especially because we have so many young people who are fighting hard to change the habits and attitudes that have taken them to bad places,” said Molly Baldwin, Roca’s Executive Director who was recently recognized as one of Massachusetts’ top 100 innovators across all sectors.
Baldwin was also quick to point out that others in the community are making a difference as well.
“I admire what the schools are doing, how effective The Neighborhood Developers neighborhood work is and efforts like those being waged by the Collaborative to help young people lead better lives, MGH to combat drug addiction and North Suffolk Mental Health to help those with mental health needs in our community. The courts really get it, too, and that’s rounding out our great team that is committed to finding a new and better way to combat public safety and the development of young people in our community,” said Baldwin.
Ash, Kyes and Baldwin were part of the victorious Chelsea delegation to the All-America City competition this past June. The community’s combined efforts to reduce crime and improve the lives of residents and the quality of life in local neighborhoods were central to Chelsea’s winning pitch to a jury of national experts on community revitalization.
As to where the community goes from here, Ash cited numerous initiatives soon to be launched, including: the Police Department will be hiring a crime watch outreach director; the City will soon offer a security camera acquisition program for residents; an MGH/City partnership will result in drug outreach councilors led by North Suffolk Mental Health being added to the streets; a task force dealing with sexual exploitation of women involved in prostitution is being formed; numerous community partners are ramping up community engagement and safety efforts as part of Chelsea Works – the innovative initiative being funded, in part, by the Boston Fed through its Working Cities Challenge and co-lead by TND, and Chelsea District Court is working with the Police Department on stay away orders for those arrested in the downtown, thereby creating “Crime-Free Zones.”
Of more ambition is an application led by Roca and the City to secure federal funding to create specialized teams to intervene in individual and family circumstances where crime may then be a result.
“All of those efforts and numerous others are being supported by scores of local partners and those from outside the community who are seeing Chelsea as the innovators we are trying to be,” said Ash. “We may not have all of the answers now, but we’re challenging each other to come up with them and achieving measurable success long the way.”
“There’s reason to be encouraged,” commented City Council Matt Frank. “Yes, we’ve got much more work ahead of us, but building off of efforts that are already enjoying such tremendous success in reducing crime rates means that our future work is much more likely to be equally as successful. It is and will continue to take all of us to win back our neighborhood’s nightly, and the work we’re doing here and the results we’re seeing really suggest that we’ll continue to achieve even greater success making Chelsea an even safer place to live, work and play.”