After countless arrests but little change in a notorious neighborhood where two dead-end streets have often translated into dead-end lives, frustrated Mesa, Az., police were ready for a new strategy. Allen and Doran streets define a harsh reality that is far removed from pleasant suburban neighborhoods only a few miles away. Their prison-oriented slang names describe what life has become: “Dblock” for Doran and “Felony Flats” for Allen, reports the Arizona Republic. When the International Association of Chiefs of Police picked Mesa as one of three cities to participate in a federally financed study, police, prosecutors, probation officers, and community workers quickly embraced the project. They picked Dblock as a real-life laboratory to test a holistic program aimed at fighting crime at its roots, realizing that arrests alone were inadequate for making long-lasting improvements.
Officials used a community prosecution model that focused on what the neighborhood needed to improve, combining the bite of arrests with social programs to help teens find jobs and community-building to identity neighborhood leaders and to bolster pride. The community prosecution approach used in Dblock may serve as a model for improved crime fighting in the Valley and across the country after the project is spotlighted later this month at the international police chiefs’ conference in San Diego. There are still struggles to address problems reaching back decades, but Mesa law-enforcement leaders, prosecutors and even some longtime residents believe they are steadily making headway.