With the local economy declining, increasing diversity, and rising crime rates, the Columbia Heights Police Department (CHPD) turned to community policing as a strategy for reducing crime and easing community tensions. The department required all officers to take at least ten hours of classes on community-oriented programming, including classes on working with kids and other cultures. Rather than making community policing an add-on, the department made it clear that these efforts were central to the work of policing in Columbia Heights.
By fully integrating community policing, CHPD was able to improve community relations and increase the number of block organizations and business partnerships. CHPD was particularly active in working with local schools, creating a Cops-N-Kids program that featured weekly open gyms for after-school recreation, finding officers to volunteer as Big Brothers, creating a Teen Police Academy, and reading to younger kids as part of an anti-bullying campaign.
As a result, teen arrests fell from an average of 247 per year in 2007 and 2008, to slightly more than 100 in 2014 (a 47% reduction).
CHPD held its first Eat and Greet event in 2014 to provide food and education to community residents. More than 100 people attended in 2014, an in just one year attendance more than doubled to 250 attendees. Last year also saw a successful National Night Out event, with 55 gatherings and more than 1,250 participants. In addition to these outreach efforts, the department holds regular events to encourage dialogues, including “Coffee with a Cop,” “Pizza with a Cop,” and even “Shop with a Cop.”
The myriad ways officers sought to engage with residents made it clear that a culture of engagement and community involvement was not a passing phase, but a new way of working. And by engaging residents of all ages and in different ways, residents could see that officers were committed to forging a new and stronger relationship.
After winning the 2016 All-America City Award the city continued to make community policing a priority. In April 2017, the police department and the Multi-Cultural Advisory Committee hosted a Police-Community Dialogue. The focus of this dialogue was immigration and issues surrounding it.
Local Contact/Link: https://www.columbiaheightsmn.gov/departments/police/index.php
Columbia Heights, Minnesota is an All-America City. For more information on the All-America City Award visit: https://www.nationalcivicleague.org/america-city-award/