Worth Ministers Against Crime A
Community Policing Success Story
1991, Fort Worth, Texas observed a spiraling upward crime trend become the
concern of residents and city leaders alike. Areas hit hardest by the
crime rate included the Near Southeast, Polytechnic Heights, Stop Six, and
Southeast neighborhoods. The combined areas comprise approximately 25
square miles and have an estimated population of 60,000 residents. During
the late 1980's and early 1990's gang warfare and other crimes of violence
had reduced this inner city area to a place where crack dealers felt free
to operate open air drug markets and citizens became captive in their own
homes. In one instance alone, it is estimated that gang members fired over
fifty (50) rounds into a small wooden residence occupied by a mother and
several small children. Miraculously no one was injured. (Drive-by
shootings were even being perpetuated by teens on bicycles.)
violence, and the accompanying police response, created considerable
tension in some neighborhoods. An
episode which characterized such tension was when a prominent minister
made the scene of a police crime seeking to offer assistance, only to be
turned away in a somewhat abrupt encounter with police.
As a result, Fort Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr and the Fort Worth
Police Department took action, establishing a
coalition of religious leaders and police officials designed to
combat crime. At its first
meeting, members of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Baptist
Ministers Union and Chief of Police met to isolate the problem and work on
an effective solution. The result was the establishment of a special
Ministers Police Academy and a unique "Ministers Against Crime"
Against Crime (MAC) is a community-based crime prevention program that is
non-denominational in nature. The original program enlisted ministerial
volunteers from inner city neighborhoods ridden with crime. The ministers
attended a special twelve (12) week police academy designed especially to
suit their needs.
September 21, 1993 an in-depth twelve (12) week course was presented at
the police academy and twenty-seven (27) ministers graduated on December
14,1993. A second class was
conducted and seventeen (17) ministers successfully completed the academy
on April 14, 1996, for a total of forty-four (44) ministers. The academy
was designed to provide the ministers with a detailed overview of police
department operations, especially in relation to the investigation of
offenses and the preservation of crime scenes. The ministers, in turn,
were able to share with the police department many of the concerns of
those within the inner city. The ministers were able to reveal to the
police department the sensitivities of many within their congregation who
might otherwise not wish to speak with an officer. Additionally, when any
police-related incident of concern occurred within the community, the
police department could have factual information relayed back to the
neighborhoods within a matter of hours using the networks established by
successful, the program did not reach full fruition until May 1996, at
which time twelve (12) members of the original Ministers Police Academy
formed Ministers Against Crime (MAC). The goals of MAC include, but are
not limited to: 1) assist police officers in non-traditional roles; 2)
calm crowds before they escalate to violence; 3) assist in domestic
situations where a minister is requested or needed; 4) patrol and report
on crime in areas the police cannot;
5) offer victim assistance; 6) reduce overall crime/tension in the
inner city; and 7) restore the peace and tranquillity of neighborhoods.
Against Crime was modeled on the successful Citizens on Patrol Concept.
Ministers were provided identification, radios, and distinctive
clothing to identify their relationship with the program.
A Police Department General Order was also issued which indicated
that MAC was to be a welcomed presence at any police scene within the
parameters established by the program.
of Ministers Against Crime, tension between members of the community and
their Police Department has been significantly reduced. The Police
Department has learned to better deal with the unique problems of the
ministers' neighborhoods and the ministers and related congregations have
been better able to understand specific police responses to crime.
a ten month period of violent crime for the area the ministers worked in
early on to a similar period when they were operating at their peak,
violent crime decreased 17%. While
many factors went into the crime reduction equation, the Ministers Against
Crime program certainly played a prominent role.
Fort Worth Police Department has an established amount of annual financing
for its Code: Blue Community Policing Programs. These include, but are not
limited to: Citizens on Patrol, Teen Academy and Citizens Police Academy.
The Ministers Against Crime component was funded within the Code:
Blue existing budget.
Involvement in the Program
of the persons reached by the ministers are those without phones or
newspapers who are on fixed incomes.
At times, the clergy is the only viable network which can
facilitate transmission of information both to and from large segments of
the city. MAC has performed
this role in an exceptional manner. Furthermore,
their community involvement has been outstanding.
1993 to 1995, when the nation experienced a large number of worship center
burnings, Ministers Against Crime formed a network to exchange information
with the police department on suspicious activity in or around worship
centers. Fort Worth did not
experience the same level of senseless destruction that other parts of the
nation experienced due largely to the assistance of MAC.
yet another case, deadly force was used by an officer and there was an
immediate outcry in the community. The
Ministers were afforded immediate access to the Division Commander where
the incident occurred. They
were given non-classified first hand information that they could in turn
disseminate back to the community. The
information was not a polished version of the facts, but an honest
accurate assessment of what the police department had done correctly or
incorrectly and what they were doing to address the situation.
It can honestly be said that during several such intense police
situations, the ministers were the glue which held the community together
by preventing intense public demonstration or outbreaks of violence.
yet another example of the Ministers' effectiveness, they were responsible
for amassing approximately 90% inner-city citizen support for a
Comprehensive Crime Control and Prevention District election.
The Crime Control and Prevention District established a one-half cent sales tax to be used for police
department crime reduction initiatives. One of the MAC representatives
served on the first oversight board of this district due to his intense
community involvement and working relationship with the police department.
members have also provided non-denominational victim assistance and family
support during times when extreme violence has occurred in the community.
Their assistance has always been welcomed and allowed the officer on the
scene to return to duties associated with the investigation of the crime.
They have been able to provide that added level of empathy and comfort so
vital to a family who is suffering intense grief.
members have also assisted by providing volunteer patrols around an area
where young students had been victims of assault coming to and from
school. As a result of their patrols, the assaults and harassment were
times, program administrators can be sidetracked by the various arguments
about maintaining a clear separation of church and state. However, when too much focus is placed on this issue, an
important communication vehicle to a large and vibrant part of their city
is closed off. By inviting
ministers to engage in a healthy two-way dialogue about problems and then
focusing on solutions, an effective vehicle is established. The Ministers Against Crime program has been a success based
largely on the clear program definition and mutual respect that all
parties have for one another. If
administrators approach this program with an open mind it can work and
will result in improved police service to an often times under represented
part of the community.
is a program that cannot be rushed and should be developed in steps so
that it is successful. Far
too often administrators implement entire programs and fail due to the
vastness of their scope. Mayors
should be patient in allowing this program to grow at a pace which is
comfortable for the clergy and provides for successes along the way.
It also must have the support of top management in the Police
Department with heavy interface and dialogue from the Chief and his/her
command staff all the way down to the beat officer.
The program must have constant reinforcement and the ministers must
be encouraged along the way as this is a new role for many.
more information about this program contact
article is part of The U.S. Conference of Mayors Institute for Community
Policing program, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of
Community Oriented Policing. For
more information about the program, please contact Kathy Amoroso on the
Conference of Mayors staff at 202/861-6728.