A West Las Vegas community group working to reduce gun violence in the neighborhood north of downtown has seen a significant decline in such incidents, the group said.
Safe Village reported 205 gun-related crimes between February and August 2007 in the area generally bordered by Martin Luther King Boulevard on the west, Carey Avenue on the north, Interstate 15 on the east and U.S. Highway 95 on the south. In the same period of 2006, there were 363 such crimes in the area.
The number of gunshot-related admissions to University Medical Center from the area dropped from 23 in 2006 to 17 in 2007 during those same months.
“We’re not the police, but we’re concerned about what’s happening in the community,” said William Sousa, an assistant professor in UNLV’s Department of Criminal Justice. “The program addresses issues of violence, but goes about it in different ways.”
Sousa has worked on similar efforts in other parts of the country and is tracking the effectiveness of the Safe Village program, which was launched in February 2007.
Safe Village coordinates with law enforcement, protests violent incidents in the area by handing out fliers, organizing rallies and working with those convicted of violent crimes. Members spend weekends going door to door to get input on what efforts can be taken to stop violence.
They also work with other programs to encourage violent criminals and victims of violent crime to get involved in mentoring and helping prevent future violence.
“Our previous experience has demonstrated that revenge is on the minds of people who have been victimized,” Sousa said.
Metropolitan Police Department officers recognize the positive influence Safe Village has had in the area known as West Las Vegas, the city’s historic black neighborhood.
“When I worked this area 10 years ago, it was very violent, very mean and high crime,” said Sgt. Dan Newberry, who has been an officer for nearly 13 years. “Now people are willing to talk to us. We’ve fostered a lot of trust.”
And while the number of gun-related crimes has gone down, the focus of Safe Village goes beyond that, members said. “The issue here is changing the norm of the thinking that violence is acceptable,” said David Osman, who is involved in Safe Village. “You cannot change the norm by just leaving it alone.”
Osman is the president and founder of Nevada Youth Alliance and co-chairman of the Southern Nevada Community Gang Task Force. They hope to expand their work to other parts of Las Vegas.
“We’re making sure we have good outcomes,” he said. “And we’re looking to broaden across the city.”
A “community celebration” of the program, its success and its future, will take place Monday at 6 p.m. at the Victory Missionary Baptist Church, 500 W. Monroe Ave.
Contact reporter Scott Spjut at email@example.com or (702) 383-0279.