CITY OF FORT
Ministers Against Crime (MAC)
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
Ministers Against Crime (MAC) is a community-based crime prevention program that is non-denominational in nature. The original program enlisted ministerial volunteers from inner city neighborhoods ridden with crime. The ministers attended a special twelve (12) week police academy designed especially to suit their needs.
On September 21, 1993 an in-depth twelve (12) week course was presented at the police academy and twenty-seven (27) ministers graduated on December 14,1993. A second class was conducted and seventeen (17) ministers successfully completed the academy on April 14, 1996, for a total of forty-four (44) ministers. The academy was designed to provide the ministers with a detailed overview of police department operations, especially in relation to the investigation of offenses and the preservation of crime scenes. The ministers, in turn, were able to share with the police department many of the concerns of those within the inner city. The ministers were able to reveal to the police department the sensitivities of many within their congregation who might otherwise not wish to speak with an officer. Additionally, when any police-related incident of concern occurred within the community, the police department could have factual information relayed back to the neighborhoods within a matter of hours using the networks established by the ministers.
Although successful, the program did not reach full fruition until May 1996, at which time twelve (12) members of the original Ministers Police Academy formed Ministers Against Crime (MAC). The goals of MAC include, but are not limited to: 1) assist police officers in non-traditional roles; 2) calm crowds before they escalate to violence; 3) assist in domestic situations where a minister is requested or needed; 4) patrol and report on crime in areas the police cannot; 5) offer victim assistance; 6) reduce overall crime/tension in the inner city; and 7) restore the peace and tranquility of neighborhoods.
Ministers Against Crime was modeled on the successful Citizens on Patrol Concept. Ministers were provided identification, radios, and distinctive clothing to identify their relationship with the program. A Police Department General Order was also issued which indicated that MAC was to be a welcomed presence at any police scene within the parameters established by the program.
2. When was the program created and why?
During 1991, Fort Worth, Texas observed a spiraling upward crime trend become the concern of residents and city leaders alike. Areas hit hardest by the crime rate included the Near Southeast, Polytechnic Heights, Stop Six, and Southeast neighborhoods. The combined areas comprise approximately 25 square miles and have an estimated population of 60,000 residents. During the late 1980's and early 1990's gang warfare and other crimes of violence had reduced this inner city area to a place where crack dealers felt free to operate open air drug markets and citizens became captive in their own homes. In one instance alone, it is estimated that gang members fired over fifty (50) rounds into a small wooden residence occupied by a mother and several small children. Miraculously no one was injured. (Drive-by shootings were even being perpetuated by teens on bicycles.)
This violence, and the accompanying police response, created considerable tension in some neighborhoods. An episode which characterized such tension was when a prominent minister made the scene of a police crime seeking to offer assistance, only to be turned away in a somewhat abrupt encounter with police. As a result, members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Baptist Ministers Union, and Chief of Police met to isolate the problem and work on an effective solution. The result was to develop a special Ministers Police Academy and a unique "Ministers Against Crime" (MAC) group.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
Because of Ministers Against Crime, tension between members of the community and their Police Department has been significantly reduced. The Police Department has learned to better deal with the unique problems of the ministersí neighborhoods and the ministers and related congregations have been better able to understand specific police responses to crime.
Comparing a ten month period of violent crime for the area the ministers worked in early on to a similar period when they were operating at their peak, violent crime decreased 17 percent. While many factors went into the crime reduction equation, the Ministers Against Crime program certainly played a prominent role.
4. How is the program financed?
The Fort Worth Police Department has an established amount of annual financing for its Code: Blue Community Policing Programs. These include, but are not limited to: Citizens on Patrol, Teen Academy and Citizens Police Academy. The Ministers Against Crime component was funded within the Code Blue existing budget.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
Many of the persons reached by the ministers are those without phones or newspapers who are on fixed incomes. At times, the clergy is the only viable network which can facilitate transmission of information both to and from large segments of the city. MAC has performed this role in an exceptional manner. Furthermore, their community involvement has been outstanding.
During 1993 to 1995, when the nation experienced a large number of worship center burnings, Ministers Against Crime formed a network to exchange information with the police department on suspicious activity in or around worship centers. Fort Worth did not experience the same level of senseless destruction that other parts of the nation experienced due largely to the assistance of MAC.
In yet another case, deadly force was used by an officer and there was an immediate outcry in the community. The Ministers were afforded immediate access to the Division Commander where the incident occurred. They were given non-classified first hand information that they could in turn disseminate back to the community. The information was not a polished version of the facts, but an honest accurate assessment of what the police department had done correctly or incorrectly and what they were doing to address the situation. It can honestly be said that during several such intense police situations, the ministers were the glue which held the community together by preventing intense public demonstration or outbreaks of violence.
In yet another example of the Ministersí effectiveness, they were responsible for amassing approximately 90 percent inner-city citizen support for a Comprehensive Crime Control and Prevention District election. The Crime Control and Prevention District established a one-half cent sales tax to be used for police department crime reduction initiatives. One of the MAC representatives served on the first oversight board of this district due to his intense community involvement and working relationship with the police department.
MAC members have also provided non-denominational victim assistance and family support during times when extreme violence has occurred in the community. Their assistance has always been welcomed and allowed the officer on the scene to return to duties associated with the investigation of the crime. They have been able to provide that added level of empathy and comfort so vital to a family who is suffering intense grief.
MAC members have also assisted by providing volunteer patrols around an area where young students had been victims of assault coming to and from school. As a result of their patrols, the assaults and harassment were significantly reduced
6. What are the major lessons learned that would be helpful for others trying to implement a similar program?
At times, administrators can be sidetracked by the various arguments about maintaining a clear separation of church and state. However, when too much focus is placed on this issue, an important communication vehicle to a large and vibrant part of their city is closed off. By inviting ministers to engage in a healthy two-way dialogue about problems and then focusing on solutions, an effective vehicle is established. The Ministers Against Crime program has been a success based largely on the clear program definition and mutual respect that all parties have for one another. If administrators approach this program with an open mind it can work and will result in improved police service to an often times under represented part of the community.
7. What specific advice do you have for mayors interested in replicating a program such as yours?
This is a program that cannot be rushed and should be developed in steps so that it is successful. Far too often administrators implement entire programs and fail due to the vastness of their scope. Mayors should be patient in allowing this program to grow at a pace which is comfortable for the clergy and provides for successes along the way. It also must have the support of top management in the Police Department with heavy interface and dialogue from the Chief and his/her command staff all the way down to the beat officer. The program must have constant reinforcement and the ministers must be encouraged along the way as this is a new role for many.For more information, please contact:
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352