Best Practices

Mayor Wellington Webb

Safe City Initiative

The Safe City Initiative's primary purpose is to engage the entire Denver community in developing and implementing solutions to the very complex issue of violence by and against our youth. The Safe City Initiative (SCI) began in 1993 when Mayor Webb joined with the Denver City Council and appointed a 150-member Safe City Task Force that held meetings throughout the city. The task force received recommendations from more than 2,500 citizens on how Denver could address the increase in violence, particularly involving youth, and to improve the quality of life and safety of our neighborhoods.

The key to our success can be attributed to a combination of strong law enforcement, prevention and community involvement. As a result of this collaboration, we saw a 10 percent decrease in overall crime in 1995. It is important to note that the Safe City Initiative concentrates on 95 percent of youth in the community; the remaining five percent are dealt with by the criminal justice system. Since public safety is our number one concern, SCI's goal is to provide positive alternatives to violence by striving to help young people accept responsibility for their actions and to change their attitudes.

We use a number of tools to accomplish our goals:

    1. Train neighborhood leaders and community groups in ways to collaborate, thereby identifying gaps in services and maximizing resources by asking them to look at the way they were doing business. SCI distributes $1 million annually to more than 90 community and neighborhood groups that have provided positive alternatives to more than 10,000 youths and 3,300 families.
    2. Build partnerships with government, business, Denver Public Schools and community groups. This partnership has provided resources for the opening of 26 new after-school programs which have promoted family involvement, increased academic achievement and the employment of more than 1,000 youths. School counselors indicate that there have been significant changes in youths' grades and behavior. A Youth Summit was held with more than 800 youth exchanging ideas on anti-violence issues. The summit served to challenge high achievers and provided incentives for marginal and low achievers to broaden their horizons.

    3. Utilize an outcome-based evaluation that provides information to measure reduction in crime, behavioral changes, academic improvement and the effects of the programs on school truancy, suspension and expulsion statistics.

    4. Take an interdisciplinary approach to funding programs, i.e., work with CDA and other funders to reduce duplication, thereby maximizing resources.

    Denver's successes also built upon collaborations such as:

    • Metro Denver Project Pact -- This effort has brought five federal agencies and five Denver and suburban jurisdictions together to enhance our law enforcement and crime prevention efforts.

    • SafeNite -- This program is a collaboration of the Denver Police, Denver Parks and Recreation, Denver Social Services, the juvenile court and probation system and Denver Public Schools. This program has served over 6,000 youth and their families since July 1994. What is important to note is that the number of reported offenses during the curfew program hours has decreased by 20 percent. The number of juveniles suspected of crimes has decreased by 25 percent, and there has been a 30 percent decrease in the number of juveniles suspected of crimes involving a victim in 1995.

    Contact: Charlotte Stephens, Safe City Initiative, (303) 640-5968

    Great Kids Initiative:

    A city's basic livability is defined by three things: safety, jobs and business climate, and good schools. City officials have direct responsibility for safety and have a strong and well-defined role in economic development. But, under the Colorado Constitution, they have no defined role in education. School districts are totally separate subdivisions of the state answerable only to directly elected local school boards and to the State Board of Education. Acting on a campaign promise, Mayor Wellington Webb set out to bridge the gap between need and power through cooperation, coordination, communication and resource allocation.

    Mayor's Office of Education and Advocacy

    After being reelected in June 1995, the Mayor convened a broad-based citizen group to define the mission for a City education office and to help select the lead staff. In December, he hired one of the committee's three recommended candidates and asked the search committee to stay on as the Mayor's Education Advisory Council. He strengthened a City-Schools Commission, created in 1975 in response to court-ordered busing, to be the focus for action. With Denver Public Schools' agreement, the Mayor, the Superintendent, School Board and City County members and cabinet officers were appointed to the 14 slots and agreed to meet monthly in local schools. The Commission has moved to clear away long-standing issues, such as weekday alternative service for adjudicated kids, transfer of crossing guard function and funding to DPS, volunteer crossing guards, and joint use of school swimming pools. Issues raised during one meeting are pushed to resolution within one or two meetings.

    The new manager for education and advocacy met with more than 100 community leaders, school people, business and neighborhood activists to collect their ideas of a successful first year. Three target areas emerged: money and resources, intergovernmental cooperation, and improved relations between the school district and the larger community. Efforts in these areas will be projects of the Mayor's "Great Kids Initiative." The manager staffs the Education Advisory Council and the City-Schools Commission, acts as liaison to Denver Public Schools (DPS), and advises the Mayor on education issues.

    In response to the community agenda and to pressing conditions in Denver, the Mayor allocated $500,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds for education projects for literacy and school readiness projects. The grant project was developed by the Mayor's Education Advisory Council and the Community Development Agency. Mayor Webb also committed $100,000 to the renovation of a school in an impacted area to ease crowding.

    Mayor Webb already was addressing law enforcement and youth crime intervention and prevention through the Safe City Initiative office. He also promoted quality child care through the Mayor's Office of Child Care Initiatives. Denver also has a Youth Commission within the City's Commission for Human Rights and Community Relations.

    From his reelection through Election Day in November 1995, Mayor Webb campaigned for a mill levy tax hike proposed by the Denver Public Schools. The mill levy proposal lost heavily. In September, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch lifted a 25-year-old busing order and put DPS in immediate defiance of a state constitutional section forbidding busing for racial balance. DPS moved to restructure to neighborhood schools in time for school opening in September 1996, which is proving to be a major challenge for the school system. Only elementary schools will have neighborhood attendance zones in 1996; middle and high schools will be restructured by September 1997.

    Contact: Carol Boigan, Mayor's Office of Education and Advocacy, (303) 640-3250

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    J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
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