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560 Communities Applied for this Safety Grant. 11 Won. Covington Was One.

On Thursday, October 30, city and community leaders will gather at 309 Orchard Street on Shotgun Row to celebrate the Westside neighborhood’s transformation from a community challenged by blight and crime into a vibrant neighborhood that is attracting families and small businesses. As part of the celebration, the Covington Police Department and the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington (CGN) will receive a national award from MetLife Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) for their extraordinary partnership to improve community safety and vitality.

At the event, MetLife Financial Services Representative Cindi Dant Shrader will present the MetLife Foundation Community-Police Partnership Award, which includes a $20,000 grant to CGN to support public safety work in the area. The Covington partnership was just one of 11 awardees nationally out of more than 560 applicants across the country.

“The Center for Great Neighborhoods is thrilled to be recognized for our long-term partnership with the Covington Police Department and Westside Action Coalition and for the measurable results that we’ve been able to achieve together to help make Covington’s Westside neighborhood a place that residents can be proud to call home,”  said Tom DiBello, CGN Executive Director.

For almost two decades, the Center for Great Neighborhoods, Covington Police Department, and City of Covington have worked together to capitalize on the assets of Covington’s Westside neighborhood while reducing crime and building trust with and between neighbors. Starting in 2004, in response to intensified concerns about crime, the City aggressively acquired 25 vacant and blighted homes in order to better manage the Westside’s future. Since then, CGN has fully rehabilitated and sold 23 homes to new homeowners, with development costs totaling over $4.3 million. Tax assessment values pre- and post-rehab increased by 1179%. Ten additional homes and a commercial building are currently under renovation, representing another $2.5 million in development.

Residents, CGN and Covington Police employed a variety of community policing strategies to reduce crime. From 2004 to 2013, there was a 50% reduction in calls for service in the Westside while there was a slight increase in calls citywide. Also during those years, individual arrests in the Westside were reduced by 23% and total charges were reduced by 34%. Today, 65.2% of Westsiders said that they feel safe in Covington all or most of the time; 55.8% agree that people can depend on each other; and 72.1% feel that conditions on their street are either stabilized or getting better.

“The men and women of the Covington Police Department are most grateful for the recognition from the MetLife Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. We can’t thank the Center for Great Neighborhoods and the Westside Action Coalition enough for being our partners in making Covington a safer place to live and grow,” said Covington Police Chief Spike Jones.

The multi-pronged approach is what made the work of the Covington team so notable, and so effective, according to LISC, the national community development organization which administers the awards program. LISC and MetLife Foundation have honored such community-police partnerships together for 13 years, building a network of leaders around the country continually testing and honing strategies to combat crime and build trust.

“The results achieved by Center for Great Neighborhoods and the Covington Police Department demonstrate the value of groups working collaboratively to increase safety and transform neighborhoods,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation. “We are pleased to join LISC in recognizing this partnership and sharing its best practices and lessons learned with community and police groups nationwide.”

“We are so proud that the hard work of Covington groups is being recognized on the national stage,” said LISC executive director Kathy Schwab. “The collaboration between the Center for Great Neighborhoods, residents and police officers has changed the landscape of this neighborhood. We applaud the vision, persistence and commitment of all involved.”

Next Thursday’s event will begin at 4:30 p.m.

-Staff report

Photo: Shotgun Row before renovation by CGN/RCN file