A Partnership that Builds Communities: Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity and the Baltimore Police Department

Housing Development The work of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity (CHH) has an impact well beyond the bricks and mortar of the homes that it builds. CHH has made a commitment to develop strategic partnerships that, together with the time and resources invested in building homes in the community, seek to create a family, neighborhood, and community transformation.

With this goal in mind, CHH has recently partnered with the Baltimore (Maryland) Police Department (BPD) to improve public safety. The collaboration aims to achieve five outcomes:

  1. Increased community stabilization.
  2. Expanded education for CHH homeowners.
  3. Improved officer/community relations.
  4. Increased public safety awareness.
  5. Enhanced teamwork among district commanders and their officers.
Laying the Foundation for Community Stabilization

In April 2007, CHH partnered with the Southern District police force through a community safe zone in the Washington Village/Pigtown area of Baltimore, along with other area nonprofit entities, to provide access to services within the designated safe zone area.

In early March of this year, the department presented a course at police headquarters, during which CHH homebuyers were given constructive examples of how they can become actively engaged in the public safety of their neighborhoods, such as through Community Relations Councils and Citizens on Patrol groups. Families also learned about the Crime Watch program, which allows 911 calls to be made anonymously, visited the Communications Center where all 911 and 311 calls are answered, and toured the Intelligence Watch Center. In a presentation on Baltimore’s City-wide Camera Project, they learned how police responded to events captured on camera and how the video evidence had been used in court.

In just a few short hours, homebuyer perceptions about police and safety in Baltimore were significantly changed for the better. The BPD will benefit from the engagement of new community members while those community members, in turn, will gain the knowledge they need to protect their families and become leaders in their communities.

Expanding our Collective Impact

To increase interaction among the police commanders, volunteers, and future CHH homebuyers, enhance department teamwork, and contribute to neighborhood stabilization objectives, CHH invited police commanders from each of Baltimore’s nine districts to spend a day alongside CHH volunteers on a build site. During the joint build, a CHH staff member will provide an overview, from the nonprofit perspective, of public safety issues surrounding vacant buildings.

Furthermore, CHH will be incorporated into the BPD’s officer training program this spring. The program will rotate a full shift off duty for 30 days, during which officers will alternate between 2 weeks of firearms training and 2 weeks of communication training. During the latter 2 weeks, an entire shift of 35 officers will volunteer on a CHH construction site.

Long-Term Vision

Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity has a history of bringing about many positive outcomes, both socially and economically, by building and renovating homes in Baltimore communities. Its presence injects new stakeholders and resources into the city by increasing the homeownership rate, adding to the tax base, and adding new social capital within the community. Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity has a history of bringing about many positive outcomes, both socially and economically, by building and renovating homes in Baltimore communities. Its presence injects new stakeholders and resources into the city by increasing the homeownership rate, adding to the tax base, and adding new social capital within the community.

Through partnerships such as this one with the BPD, CHH has been able to fulfill its mission to work as a positive catalyst for change, not only in the lives of homeowner families, but in the communities where they live. This, ultimately, is part of the greater goal to build a better and safer city for all Baltimore residents. Together, the CHH and the BPD aim to demonstrate how decent housing, community revitalization, and public safety are deeply interconnected and require strong community-police partnerships to create a safer city.

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