Methods: This project used a mixed-method design, which included holding multiple stakeholder meetings; community focus groups; interviews with community stakeholders; and obtaining official police data. While the statistics reported by the police department provide a basic understanding of the crime problem, the primary data collection activities grounded in qualitative methods have the unique strength of giving the community a mechanism to voice their thoughts and opinions in a systematic but unstructured format, providing the opportunity for a richer, more nuanced understanding of community dynamics.
Results: The crime and violence rates in the two most populous cities in Phillips and Coahoma Counties are significantly higher than their surrounding areas. Homicide rates in both counties were very high, and community stakeholders indicate that they experience a great deal of violent and property crimes. When asked what was causing the crime, residents, community stakeholders, and government officials cited a variety of problems that were clustered into five themes: inadequate family and community support, lack of economic opportunities, government system failure, limited social programs and services, and failing schools. Using best practices clearinghouses and the academic literature, the research team identified a range of evidence-based programs that have successfully reduced the causes and contributors of crime and violence raised by the stakeholders in these communities.
Implications: Impacting crime and violence is very complex and challenging because it is so interrelated with other social and economic problems, and local efforts may not show tangible results for many years. Findings from this project, grounding in the CDC framework, provide the foundation for a community coalition to develop a comprehensive approach to crime and violence prevention and reduction in Phillips and Coahoma Counties, and other similar communities.