2000 Finalist
City of Redlands, California
Innovations in American Government Awards
Innovations in American Government Awards

In their seminal work on adolescent problem prevention over the past few decades, Drs. David Hawkins and Richard Catalano of the University of Washington, have developed a theory called "Risk and Protective Focused Prevention," based on the notion that there are identifiable "risk factors" in youths' lives which contribute to their involvement in substance abuse, delinquency, violence, and teen pregnancy. Some examples of risk factors pinpointed in their work include the availability of drugs and alcohol, community disorganization, low neighborhood attachment, and parental involvement with the problem behavior.

Redlands, California, is a city filled with both upscale homes and welfare families, methamphetamine addicts and bored youth, leading to rising problems with drugs, gangs, and associated crime. While the predominantly minority district north of the interstate highway that bisects the city is stereotypically seen as the hotbed of crime in Redlands, detailed crime data has shown that problems like drug and alcohol abuse were just as prevalent in more affluent parts of the city.

As offenses and arrests rose in the 1990s, many members of the law enforcement and social work community saw the need to tackle issues of neighborhood blight, substance addiction, lack of community social activities, and parental disengagement. In doing so, city officials aimed to move past the "hook and book" strategy of arresting offenders while leaving the underlying triggers of criminal behavior untreated.

In September of 1997, the City of Redlands consolidated its recreation, housing, and senior services into the Police Department to provide the police with more prevention tools, enabling a new focus on reducing risk factors and enhancing protective factors. Recreation personnel wear police badges and sit on promotion and disciplinary boards in the police department, and traditional police officers spend more time on mentoring and recreation activities with at-risk youth populations.

Using advanced mapping software, risk factor data can be displayed at the level of a city block, identifying neighborhoods with high-risk profiles so that community resources may be directed accordingly. The city takes recreation programming to neighborhoods with low levels of neighborhood attachment, and housing personnel direct funds to areas in which high transience and mobility is identified. Beforehand, funds and programs were allocated on a centralized, "first-come" basis, with no regard to their statistical impact on risk factors and crime prevention.

In addition to all the qualitative benefits associated with an integrated and sensitive crime prevention program, specific quantitative effects are beginning to be felt in Redlands. In 1999, major crimes in the city had dropped by over 24% over the past two years, with especially impressive results in areas the Police Department focused on after identifying them as having "low neighborhood attachment." As more positive results come in, police departments across California and the rest of the country have examined Redlands' program as a model for their own efforts to move beyond crime suppression toward a fully community-oriented service.