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The City of Hartsville received a Municipal Achievement Award for its police department community outreach division. Officials accepted the award during the Municipal Association of South Carolina's Annual Meeting on July 21. The city won in the public safety category. Thirty cities and towns submitted their projects and initiatives.
A gap in understanding had opened between the City of Hartsville's police department and some of the residents it served. City leaders viewed that gap against the backdrop of the nationwide tensions and decided to take proactive steps to foster relationships with residents and reduce the crime rate.
In the fall of 2014, the American Planning Association's Community Planning Assistance Team assessed the conditions of one of the city's most crime-ridden, low-income neighborhoods and came up with a plan to address its challenges. The team concluded that the city should "build trust between the community and law enforcement."
The police department created the Community Outreach Division to focus on these challenges through special programs for crime reduction and safety. The division achieved success, in part, because of its partnerships with outside organizations and officials' conscious decision to avoid duplicating efforts already in existence. Division members worked to connect those with needs and organizations with the appropriate resources to meet those residents' needs. A U.S. Department of Justice grant allowed the city to create a community liaison officer position to assist with the division.
The division used community presentations, school visits, a satellite office and events such as Coffee with a Cop and National Night Out to build trust with residents. Another program the city partnered with, called Employing Ministry and Police to Overcome Walls and End Racism, resulted in repairs and improvements to four houses. The division was also involved in the Hartsville Safe Communities, a community partnership that works with repeat offenders to offer them a second chance.
"This outreach division has created an environment of trust and open dialogue within the city that led to tangible results that address community concerns," said Wayne George, executive director for the Municipal Association.
These winning entries represent innovative projects undertaken by Municipal Association member cities and towns. Information and a video about the project are available on the Association's website www.masc.sc (keyword: Achievement Awards).
The Municipal Association of South Carolina initiated the Achievement Awards in 1987 to recognize and encourage innovations and excellence in local government.