Community Safety Takes a Step Forward in Elizabeth

NJHI 2015: Building a Culture of Health in New Jersey – Communities Moving to Action Shaping Elizabeth Community Health Initiative

When the iron is hot – be ready to react.

Earlier this year, a tragic incident occurred in Midtown Elizabeth. A young man was killed. This tragedy forced many of us to take a deeper look at the safety of our community. Leaders in the community began to gather in small groups discussing what happened. Many community stakeholders, including YMCA CEO Krystal Canady knew that more than just conversation was needed.

The Shaping Elizabeth coalition became the catalyst for the next steps to address community safety as a health priority. In May, we held our first meeting to hear from current partners and new partners about immediate strategies for a safe summer and long-term strategies for sustainable change. Gangs, guns, the lack of engagement among young people, and community acceptance were identified as major concerns. A plan was put in place to meet again and move to immediate action on proposed short-term strategies. We identified potential new partners to join in this work, including the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Prosecutor’s Office, YWCA, and local businesses and faith-based organizations.

We met again in June. The good news is that representatives from the Elizabeth Police Department and Union County Prosecutor’s Office attended, along with three new community-based organizations, including the YWCA, Jefferson Park Ministries and Elizabeth Development Company – joining the YMCA, Housing Authority, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Union County Office. An agenda was developed and the discussion quickly took us in many directions. The police department and Prosecutor’s Office shared new information for us to consider as well as opened discussion from the community’s point of view.

Outcomes included:

  • Short-Term Actions for a SAFE Neighborhood
    • Use current 911 system to report all occurrences so police can track and respond
    • Contact Elizabeth Police Department Community Captain if there is a recurring concern that needs more attention, following the “See something, say something” campaign.
    • Encourage more community members to attend “Ward” meetings, by sharing upcoming meeting information with partners and thecommunity on social media.
    • Report any areas of the city that are drug trafficking areas.
    • Include police department and DA representation on Shaping Elizabeth Executive Team
  • Long-Term Impact on Community Safety
    • The development of a “Safety Coalition” as an arm of Shaping Elizabeth, under the direction of the Shaping Elizabeth Executive Team
    • Shared data and statistics on crime among community partners
    • A current and shared awareness among enforcement agencies, community and organizations on what is current status of Elizabeth in terms of –  Gangs, Gun Violence and Violence – toguide the work of changing perceptions and encouraging involvement
    • The development of a Community Action Plan

Hopes were shared:

Fix it all

Mare sure people are safe

Reduce violence/gun violence

Educate yourself and the community

How can the police department help?

Small steps to determine safety

Attract young people and make them feel welcome

Add police department and Prosecutor’s Office to Shaping Elizabeth

Hear the disconnect that the community feels

Understand the different perspective of the community

There is a long road ahead but we have taken the first step. Partner with us in Elizabeth, or join a similar conversation in the NJHI Community Moving to Action nearest you.

The Grantee Blog publishes a different NJHI-supported community’s update every week. Bookmark this site to stay up-to-date and share in the work of building healthier communities across New Jersey.


Alane McCahey
The Gateway Family YMCA