Back in New Orleans this week talking at a crime summit hosted by Louisiana AARP. The topic is how SafeGrowth and the Hollygrove success story might work throughout the city.
The highlight was meeting old friends from Hollygrove and watching them tell their story to groups from throughout the city. A 78% decline in crime rates this year is quite a story, especially when crime elsewhere in the city is plateauing.
Recently there has been an increase in New Orleans homicides. Hollygrove's homicides have declined from 20 to 4.
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
How, they were asked, did they turn things around?
Difficult to spell out in clear steps. Certainly plenty of early steps were underway soon after Hurricane Katrina. A garden center was reinvigorated by volunteers (see photo). The city began a program of condemning and demolishing blighted properties (over 35% of all homes were condemned when we did our first SafeGrowth session 3 years ago. Today that's down to just under 20%).
Then AARP Louisiana came to the table with their Livability Academy and training. Change sped up considerably.
For me this neighborhood continues to improve due to the soul and gumption of some local residents. They started their own non-profit organization and now claim ownership for making changes themselves.
Here's a few things the residents did:
1.Installed their own street lighting when they could not get the city to do it
2.Could not get official street signs so used politicians signs from the last election to make their own (see…politicians can help troubled neighborhoods!)
3.Quadrupled attendance at Night Out Against Crime walks
4.Cleaned and swept their own streets.
5.Absent landlords refused to move lawns, local residents did it
6.Partnered with police and the city to shut down a drug house
7.Created a seniors walking group - the Soul Steppers - to take back their streets. Soul Stepper groups are now throughout New Orleans
8.Got a problem bar to get rid of drug dealers
9.Bus department would not repair a bus shelter so they built their own with recycled materials
And so on.
That's how you start to turn a place around.
To my friends in Hollygrove, congratulations! It's a great way to start the new year.