Forging a community safety partnership to make real change now

A lot of us have been asking ourselves what’s next? How do I step up in light of frightening local and national events? We, the parents of Arcata Elementary School, had a similar question in September when a 12-year-old girl was sexually assaulted on her way to school. HSU students were asking themselves the same question when one of their own had his jaw broken in an argument that started over racial slurs. And just last week after a man was stabbed outside of the Arcata Co-op, we find ourselves asking that question yet again.

What next, what now?

browning-lazon-badgeWe stand together. That’s what we do next. A growing group of Arcata community members  are working to build a Community Safety Partnership — a coalition of community-based organizations, school boards, businesses, and individual volunteers — that can work in collaboration with our local government to promote a vibrant, safe and healthy environment in which to live and work.

Numerous public and private meetings have been held to identify priorities and several projects are about to be launched, such as a collaborative art installation that emphasizes beauty while enhancing safety along the pathway where our student was attacked.

However, we recognize the need to create long-lasting and comprehensive engagement with these issues. To that end, we have petitioned the Arcata City Council to form a Public Safety Committee composed of council members, police, business owners, concerned community members, and K-12 school and university representatives.

Rather than an end-all solution, the formation of this committee constitutes the first step toward making public safety a city-wide priority. Such a committee can articulate with community organizations to solve broad-reaching problems and ensure that the average Arcata citizen has a place to take their safety concerns and walk away with tangible action.

While the recent incidents of violence in our community are alarming, we need not grab our pitchforks. We cannot, for a moment, alienate the most disenfranchised and vulnerable among us; but that doesn’t mean we tolerate the predators that hide among them.

This is a call to take back our community. To clean our streets, show up for our loved ones, call out bad behavior and protect the town we love.

We recognize that our city leaders and police cannot solve these problems alone. We want to pool our collective energy and resources to encourage community engagement with our public spaces and each other; to build a strong community policing program that emphasizes prevention; to deter aggressive and intrusive public behavior; to support mental health and addiction services; to productively and humanely address the growing population of homeless; to support our local businesses by creating an environment conducive for them to operate viably; to get children to school safely; and to work with our university students and staff to heal the divide between minority students and the community at large.

The Arcata City Council has placed the Safety Committee on the agenda of their upcoming meeting this Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

We strongly encourage all that are concerned with community safety to attend this meeting, to sign our petition, and to get involved.

A website is in development and scheduled to launch within the week: arcatacsp.org. The website will serve as a hub for interested organizations and individuals to connect, inform and collaborate.

Questions and comments can be directed to [email protected]. The petition can be signed online at change.org or on paper at the Arcata Chamber of Commerce, the Arcata Main Street office on the Plaza and PastaLuego in Jacoby’s Storehouse.

Melissa Lazon and Anjali Browning are organizers of the Community Safety Partnership.

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