Expanded AmeriCorps Partnership to Help Improve Public Safety in Detroit

By Josh Paciorek | November 08, 2013

The success of Detroit’s comeback relies on the city confronting one of its biggest challenges: public safety. That’s why Governor Rick Snyder joined Mayor Dave Bing in Detroit on Monday to announce the expansion of an innovative crime reduction model in Detroit: the AmeriCorps Governor & Mayor Initiative Urban Safety Corps Program.

“This is a great illustration of people coming together at all levels,” the governor said. “Whether you're in the public sector or the foundation community or the private sector or just a citizen in the neighborhood that's working hard to have a good life, I appreciate everyone combining together to show great results.”

Operated by Wayne State University, the Urban Safety Corps has already been at work in the Midtown and East Jefferson communities for three years.  This new joint effort now expands the program into five more communities.

Wendy Spencer -- the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service -- was on site to award the program a $1.6 million AmeriCorps grant for the next three years. As the federal agency on service and volunteerism, CNCS is responsible for administering all federal national service programs, including AmeriCorps.

“You know you don't know how important public safety is, or we might take it for granted, until you don't have it.  So, our goal here is to make sure that every community not only feels safe but is safe to the core,” Spencer said. “This is a great investment. Detroit deserves it. You earned it. We're pleased so much to be able to make this commitment.”

The volunteer program -- which uses more than 1500 volunteers -- works to eliminate crime ‘hot-spots,’ which are areas where assaults, break-ins, drug dealing, and related crimes take place. When the governor visited on Monday, the program’s volunteers were working to board up vacant homes near a school. 

“We are boarding up ten open and vacant properties in the Osborne neighborhood directly across from the Osborne school campus to secure the walk to and from small for the school kids,” said Kaye Sutherland, an AmeriCorps volunteer  “If it is an open property, it is a haven for criminals to come in. Closing the property ensures greater security.”

“It's a warm feeling you get when you have a bunch of people that you don't know and they all come together to work towards one same common goal,” added Tony Stainback, another local volunteer.

In the past three years, the program has been able to reduce crime by 44 percent in its targeted areas. Several other initiatives are also taking place to make Detroit safer for the city’s families, such as more funding to operate street lights, more police cars, and quicker response times from emergency vehicles. 

To learn more about available volunteer opportunities and the AmeriCorps Governor & Mayor Initiative Urban Safety Corps Program, please visit www.amusdetroit.org.