We are pleased to announce that we have received a five-year, $6 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to expand the work of the Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center. This grant will allow us to study the effects of vacant property improvements on violence, property crimes and intentional injuries in three U.S. cities. In partnership with University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University and community based organizations in Flint, Michigan, Youngstown, Ohio and Camden, New Jersey, the Center will focus on the effects of engaging residents, particularly youth, in caring for properties in their neighborhoods.
Over the past 5 years, we have worked with partners in Flint to test the idea that a comprehensive approach to violence prevention can reduce assaults and intentional injuries. Our initial results indicate a decline in reported assaults and assault injuries in the intervention community.
One strategy we are evaluating is the Genesee County Land Bank Clean and Green program that involves community residents in improving vacant properties to create safer neighborhoods. This idea is consistent with Busy Streets Theory, developed by Dr. Zimmerman and the YVPC team in 2010. Busy Streets Theory is based on the idea that cleaning up and caring for abandoned properties creates more spaces for positive social interaction and fewer places and opportunities for crime and violence to happen. This helps build neighborhood trust, creates community pride and ultimately results in busier and safer streets where people will interact in positive ways.
This new round of funding will allow us to test the Busy Streets concept and build evidence to support greening as a youth violence prevention strategy that can be implemented nationwide. Specifically we will be assessing the effects of greening activities on reducing youth violence. We will also assess whether engaging community youth and adults in greening activities reduces violence to a greater degree than either professional greening or no maintenance.
This new project brings together a broad based partnership including U-M School of Public Health, U-M Medical School, University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, MI, Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, Cooper’s Ferry Partnership in Camden, NJ, the Center for Community Progress, as well as economic development organizations, health departments, hospitals, police departments and community-based organizations in each city.