Webinar presenter Peter Bellmio answered a number of your questions after his presentation, Beyond Strategic Planning: Creating a Community Crime Control Plan for Your Agency. Here are just a few of his responses.
Audience Question: So you talked about finding people to be on the steering committee, or the action committee or the planning committee, etc. Do these meetings have to be done in-person or can we use technology to involve people in the process like virtual meetings, conference calls, Google documents, etc.?
Peter Bellmio: I think for some event, you can. And I think, particularly, if you had an implementation team that already knows each other, and they don’t need to see each other, I think you really could. And that would make this work a lot easier. We began in the last few sessions to use the cloud to put stuff out there for everybody to get we don’t print a lot of paper anymore. But yes, I think that’s a great suggestion and I think going forward, we can use technology.
Audience Question: When you talk about committees, these are again, civilian or citizen involved committees, not just government employees, right?
Peter Bellmio: Yes, it has to be. Because we want to try to get the citizen’s input. If it’s going to be collaborative, it has to be both. It has to be police, and even the justice system. Sometimes we got to bring the prosecutors in because people don’t like the way cases have been tried or not tried which say hey that’s not us. We’re bringing a couple of attorneys in. So yeah, it has to be a mixed group can’t be just one.
Audience Question: What do you think about the idea of maybe a community coming to law enforcement to get their involvement and to start the process that way?
Peter Bellmio: It’s interesting. Community Policing many, many years ago in Seattle started because the community came to Seattle Police and said, ‘we want a different style of policing’. I think that that is another way for that to happen. Yes.
Audience Question: How big should these committees and groups be. I know it’s sometimes it’s a judgment call of big enough to get the work done but still be manageable. How many people were talking about realistically?
Peter Bellmio: Normally you need 16 to 18 max on the steering committee because otherwise, you create a legislature, and things don’t get done. What happened to us in Richmond was everybody was so afraid about the crime problem we had 120 people wanted to be on the steering committee. We decided to try to go forward with a big group because of their level of commitment and we thought we would have some natural attrition. We went out into the community to find trained facilitators who volunteered to work on the project. Every meeting was done through a nominal group process. We had people sitting in tables of eight and scattered around the room with a facilitator at each table. This approach helped establish communication skills among diverse groups of people and helped them reach consensus on issues and solutions. The result was they worked with the City to implement geographic-based policing, sector policing in which a Lieutenant had a team of officers who worked in that area consistently. Sector policing was one of the major forces that drove homicide down in Richmond.
Audience Question: What do you think of the idea of doing like a community-wide survey to gather data about what the community thinks their issues are?
Peter Bellmio: I have mixed feelings about community-wide surveys. I haven’t seen research on this lately. But it depends on how you do it that you may be getting property owners. Many of the people answering the survey never were crime victims and never got served by the police. You can ask those questions respondents get most of their ideas about the police and conditions in the community from media. I’m not saying that the media may be wrong, but it certainly is not a survey based on first-hand experience with police service. So what I like to do is once you have got your group in place, and they and they are starting to work, and you’re trying to resolve a problem, I could see using and then we have to use Survey Monkey to say, look, we’ve got this one issue Please answer this survey. We’re going to try to figure out to deal with it at the next meeting. We’re going to get some input because as you go through problems and you keep digging into them, you’re going to find very specific questions you need answers to and there are only some people in the community that can answer it. You want to get it from them.
Audience Question: Do we hear you say correctly, it takes about five months to take to work this process?
Peter Bellmio: Because you want to do is, you do it too fast, then it doesn’t stick. One Town Hall usually has no staying power. You’re going to need time between each meeting to let people go back and do their work. It is a team-building process. And that’s why the planners are so important in this. For example, if we have that forces of change exercise, which we sometimes do as a storyboard exercise, it’ll take a month to go track down and there’s an example in the manual about the kind of data people will say things about population trends and all that. We have to hold that stuff. And in between meetings, you may also have to go recruit new people because we found out why we don’t have anybody from public housing, “all right, go out there” – in-between now and the next meeting’. So it does take about 5 months if all goes well. If you can work on it through the winter do it so that it ends by spring you get the most participation. That’s been the best timing because then after that people can get going on projects after school let out and you’re going to get ready for the summer.
Audience Question: I know that this is a community plan. I mean, we work in partnership with the community, but who were the agency kind of oversees or owns this process?
Peter Bellmio: Usually, it is someone that the chief appoints whose natural role is to work with the community. In some agencies, the patrol commander in Richmond was heavily engaged in this stuff. And the reason is, patrol is the front line for working with the community to implement the crime control plan. Usually, I think it should be somebody in patrol working with maybe a small group within the department middle managers with support from planning and research.
Audience Question: How often does the community crime control plan need to be refreshed or revisited? Is it nearly as much work the second time around once you’ve kind of done the first time through?
Peter Bellmio: This is something cities have struggled with and refreshing it every year is a lot of work and there’s meeting fatigue. This is where I think we can use social media and other online tools to get input on progress without holding a large meeting. There is value, however in that kind of large event for media exposure. Every two years is probably more realistic just so long as you are not losing momentum after the first year. Realistically, your community might decide on five crime control goals but realistically they will not all be met, And that’s the nature of the beast. You may get three of them done. I think it’s up to the steering committee at that point to pick the right time to refresh the plan.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of Beyond Strategic Planning: Creating a Community Crime Control Plan for Your Agency.