Cincinnati Reports Breakthrough in Community Moral Voice Work

Avondale residents and community leaders have been partnering
with law enforcement for Cincinnati’s Moral Voice project.

Cincinnati, a leading member city of the National Network for Safe Communities, saw homicides in its Avondale neighborhood drop to zero so far this year -- from 11 in 2011 -- after testing a new method of communicating directly with highly active offenders. 
Cincinnati’s “Moral Voice” project, launched in Avondale in March this year, involves small groups of community members meeting with those in the neighborhood who are most involved in violence – or with people with influence in their lives – and delivering a specifically tailored no-violence message.  They tell the individual that the community will no longer stand for any violence in the neighborhood, but that he is loved and valued and that services are available to him if he wants them. To back up the community’s message, small law enforcement teams separately meet with the same individuals, or those close to them, to clearly spell out the heightened legal consequences they face if they or others in their groups continue to shoot or kill.
With support from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the National Network has been working closely with Cincinnati and other key cities and partners on boosting the community’s role in its strategy to address group violence. The strategy holds that community members and other peers are most likely to influence the behavior of offenders, and the early results from Cincinnati and other cities are extremely encouraging. High Point, NC and Sacramento, CA are also involved in testing new ways of making the community’s voice against violence be heard more directly, and they, too, have reported reductions in violent crime.

National Network Co-Chair David Kennedy called the news a tremendously important and exciting development. “This is a breakthrough in one of the National Network’s most central objectives: to put community standards and community actors in the lead in creating safe neighborhoods. Effective community action means less policing, fewer arrests, and fewer people in jail and prison: exactly what both law enforcement and communities want. Cincinnati and other cities are showing that this is possible and within our immediate reach.”

The National Network for Safe Communities is producing a Practice Brief on these types of custom notifications to encourage other cities to test them in their communities.