Green Dots: How Many Do You Have?

Green Dot logoDecreasing violent crime rates is a daunting task, but Green Dot Etcetera, Inc., and its founder, Dr. Dorothy Edwards, have put together a national program that is simple, concrete, and realistic. Live the Green Dot mobilizes communities to combat violent crime together. At the COPS 2012 Conference in August, Dr. Edwards shared with law enforcement professionals in attendance the idea of creating “green dots,” or positive behaviors, choices, and actions that counter “red dots,” or violent acts and behaviors. By providing the tools and empowerment to the community, situations where violent crimes may occur can be tapered with the spread of green dots. The symbolism of the green dot is simple: “Red dots bad. Green dots good.”

Green Dot’s community mobilization strategy to decrease violent crime relies on several core beliefs, including: the importance of bystander intervention; creating a shared vision and language; simple, manageable, and realistic actions and alternatives for individuals; and, developmentally appropriate tools for the community.  

Success stories from Green Dot:

A young woman was hanging out a friend’s party. As the night progressed, two men at the party were trying to get her upstairs and were making obscene remarks. Her friend grabbed her arm and said “hey, I need some cigarettes, will you ride to the store with me?” The friend didn’t confront the two men directly, but he got his friend out of the high risk situation.

A frat brother was at a party and saw a drunken girl leaning on one of his fellow frat brothers taking her up the stairs. Without directly confronting his fellow brother, he yelled out, “hey bro, is that your car getting towed?!” The guy left the girl, and her friends were able to get her out.

In the Green Dot strategy, all community members—not just witnesses to violent acts—are bystanders and are engaged to practice proactive behaviors that show intolerance for violence. Members are also equipped with reactive intervention skills to deal with high-risk situations. Armed with those skills and techniques, individuals are able to influence the actions and behaviors of both potential victims and perpetrators of violent crime—even before a negative encounter takes place. By using the visual symbolism of the green dots and red dots populated across maps, Green Dot has created a shared vision that green dots are important, and that everyone can be a “green dot.” By getting communities to think about violence prevention as small, individual “green dots” instead of a large scale movement, the program also creates an accessible way for communities to discuss violence prevention and increase opportunities for individuals to engage in behaviors to prevent crime.

Green Dot also stresses the importance of tools that are simple, manageable, and realistic, as well as developmentally appropriate. While individuals may condemn violence, most are unsure of their ability to do something about it. Individuals must have tools they can use in the life they are already living—not tools that require them to change the way they live in order to intervene. The tools also have to take into account the legitimate obstacles that each potential bystander might face, be it fear of social reprisal, an introverted personality, or fear of personal harm. Green Dot works with community members to realistically and non-judgmentally talk about options that take those obstacles into account, so that community members can still engage in positive behaviors and actions which contribute to the prevention of violent acts. In addition to being manageable and realistic, tools for community members have to also be developmentally appropriate. Toward that end, Green Dot has developed curriculum and training sessions that span the developmental levels from K-12 and on into the college and adulthood years, addressing the specific obstacles and challenges faced at each stage.

Green Dot image mapThe first training involves a one-hour overview talk that is inspirational while providing research inspired hope. The participants receive specific ideas on what they can do to get involved in the movement, while at the same time renewing or increasing their passion in community mobilization. This training is adapted for the specific audience—from college students to co-workers and community members. The second training is focused on the early adopters, or the most influential people in the community. This 3- to 6-hour training session offers proactive and reactive strategies that the audience can take back to their community and model. The third training is a 4-day intensive forum where an organization, coalition, military base, or community is trained to philosophically create the Green Dot program in their own community.

Community policing advances public safety through relationship building and the increase of trust. The Green Dot program uses these principles to engage and empower communities to work together and become activists against violence. By focusing on violence prevention and diffusing responsibilities, each person has ownership of the solution. With Green Dot in their corner, community members take ownership and feel confident on doing something to fight violence.

Kimberly Brummett
Program Specialist
The COPS Office


Nazmia Alqadi
Program Specialist
The COPS Office

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