Engaging the Community in Reducing Crime

By DeShawn Singleton

DeShawn Singleton with CEO, Wendy Spencer

AmeriCorps member helps reduce blight and crime in Detroit. 

DeShawn Singleton is currently serving his second term an AmeriCorps member with the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project in Detroit.  He shared his story last week at the Franklin Project Summit at Gettysburg.

A year ago I joined AmeriCorps because of the dismal state my city was in. I knew the only way to shed light was to give back to my community.  As a work-study student at  the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, I learned about the AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project.  I saw the great work they were doing throughout the city and decided to join the team.

As an AmeriCorps member my goal is to decrease crime by increasing public safety. As a native and a current resident of Detroit, I can tell you it isn’t as bad as portrayed on the mass media. But crime is definitely an issue. The financial situation has left Detroit unable to enforce the law effectively.

AmeriCorps members at a service project cleaning up front yard of house.

My team of 30-plus AmeriCorps members works to reduce crime. To do so we take many avenues. One of the most important ways is starting and facilitating block clubs and tenant organizations in the roughest parts of the city.  These clubs will be sustainable long after our terms are up. There are a host of methods we use to initiate these block clubs and organizations. Some include community barbecues, board-ups, clean-ups, bike watches, and mass canvassing where we partner with existing neighborhood organizations and go door-to-door and engage the residents. The combination board-ups and clean-ups is hands down the most effective.

Our sponsor, the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies, partners with the Detroit Police Department to analyze crime data.  We strategically chose to board up vacant and open homes were crime is most prevalent and where children get to and from school.  The students now have a safe route to school and their parents have peace of mind. The love and appreciation we get from the participating residents and even those simply riding by is without parallel. I would say it is what drives me to continue my work in the most efficient way possible.

AmeriCorps Urban Safety Project has also affected me personally. Thus far AmeriCorps has provided me with the opportunity and equipped me with the resources to effectively serve my community. It confirmed my notion that I was born to be something greater than just myself. I was born to help those who don’t have the resources, education, even the will to get on their feet and become their own leaders.

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