WATERLOO — Waterloo police will step up their partnerships with the community to reduce violence under a new initiative announced Thursday.
U.S. Attorney Pete Deegan said lowering crime isn’t just about prosecuting criminals, but also means intervening in the cycle of criminal behavior that evolves into violence.
To that end the new program, dubbed Iowa Safer Areas For Everyone, will work with local residents and organizations involved in prevention, rehabilitation and re-entry to provide services and opportunities to those looking to end the cycle of violence.
“We are not simply going to prosecute our way to safer neighborhoods,” Deegan said. “In the Northern District of Iowa and especially in Waterloo, we have had great success taking guns and offenders off the street by enforcing federal gun laws … but we also know that a more comprehensive approach to crime reduction requires a strong partnership between law enforcement and the community.”
Waterloo was chosen to be the start of the program because it already had detailed data and statistics on crime in the community.
“The SAFE initiative will allow us to build upon the successes we have had in the past while looking to make our streets safer in the future,” said Waterloo Police Dan Trelka. “Our partnerships with community members and law enforcement agencies in the area will only grow stronger and will provide paths for success through rehabilitation and community resources.”
Trelka said he would like to see outreach specialists, people who can de-escalate problems brewing in the community and head off violence.
“These outreach specialists will be provided with the tools and the training and will have knowledge of the resources available to the family to assist them with the child who is engaged in these behaviors,” Trelka said.
Deegan said that model has seen success in other parts of the country.
“For example, the police will learn of a high-risk situation where you’ve got groups that are in a dispute that may escalate into a crime of violence. The police being on the front lines can then partner with community mentors that are in the best position to go in and find out what’s the root cause of the conflict, where is there a need for help,” Deegan said.
Also attending the press conference were representatives of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, FBI, Black Hawk County Attorney’s Office, Family and Children’s Council, Center for Violence Prevention and community members.