Cover: Leveraging Research and Philanthropy to Reduce Crime and Violence in the Mississippi Delta

Leveraging Research and Philanthropy to Reduce Crime and Violence in the Mississippi Delta

Published Jun 29, 2018

by Jessica Saunders, Dionne Barnes-Proby, Samuel Peterson

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Research Questions

  1. How are foundations funding crime and violence reduction?
  2. What are the crime and violence problems in the Mississippi Delta and what is causing them?
  3. What are some research-based approaches to addressing the specific problems identified in the Mississippi Delta?
  4. How can the community develop and implement a comprehensive public safety strategy?

This research project explored how foundations approach funding public safety projects, focusing on two counties (Phillips County, Arkansas, and Coahoma County, Mississippi) in the Mississippi Delta. We conducted a needs assessment of the affected communities, identified and reviewed evidence-based strategies for addressing community problems, and provided a roadmap for developing a comprehensive public safety strategy for these counties. The project began with interviews with representatives of peer philanthropic foundations to learn how these foundations approach community public safety, make funding decisions, and measure their impact; in addition, interviewers gathered advice on working as a newcomer to public safety projects. We also conducted a needs assessment of the priority counties to understand specific crime problems and their causes and correlates. We conducted multiple site visits, dozens of interviews, and two focus groups in each community and reviewed available crime data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local police departments. Next, we searched the research literature to identify a variety of evidence-based approaches to reducing crime, violence, and its causes and correlates that match the needs identified in the Mississippi Delta. The project concluded with the development of a framework for how to think through the various options for selecting and implementing community-level violence prevention and intervention.

Key Findings

Strategic Planning, Building a Community Coalition Are Essential

  • A strategic plan that includes knowledge sharing with other funders and community representatives is essential.
  • Residents, community stakeholders, and government officials cited inadequate family and community support; a lack of economic opportunities; government failures; and failing schools, outmigration, and urban decay as contributing to crime.
  • Dozens of research-based programs and strategies address the problems faced in the Mississippi Delta.
  • In general, programs that reduce crime and violence rely on strong partnerships with law enforcement and other government entities. Approaches to prevent crime have more diverse partnerships.
  • Building a community coalition is the first step in a successful crime prevention initiative.

Recommendations

  • Create a local coalition or steering committee.
  • A foundation or other funder cannot simply apply funds to a standalone program, even if it is evidence-based, and expect to produce long term community-level changes in crime and violence. It requires a coordinated effort that must rely heavily on community involvement to succeed.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Walton Family Foundation and conducted by the Justice Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment.

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