As crime rises in US cities, strained police forces turn to places of worship for help

Major US cities face a perfect storm. Violent crime is on the rise and law enforcement is struggling to keep officers on the job.

Now, some of those cities are bringing faith to the front lines as police departments battle rising crime with fewer officers.

In Gresham, Oregon, Staff Sgt. Travis Garrison says a spike in crime forces his department to pick and choose which calls and crimes it can send officers to. “We can only investigate murders,” the sergeant said. Garrison said. “We will regularly respond to the shots, but if the person is to survive, we are not going to follow up on that.”

“Triage” or prioritization of first responders is becoming commonplace. In Philadelphia, police have disbanded their abandoned car unit. In Los Angeles, police have cut their homeless awareness and animal cruelty teams.

“It’s going to take us years to recover from this and I hope the people I work with hold it together,” said Sgt. Garrison.

As increasing numbers of police leave their jobs, violent crime continues to rise in several major US cities. In an unprecedented move, departments are turning to places of worship, hoping faith can help curb this trend.

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More than 25 law enforcement groups joined prominent faith leaders on Capitol Hill on Tuesday – inviting communities to participate in National Faith and Blue Weekend.

Dr Rev. Markel Hutchins, head of MovementForward Inc., started this event five years ago in Atlanta. He knows firsthand that a weekend can trigger change.

“With crime and violence escalating – with our communities under siege and under attack, our best march right now is not against law enforcement, but with law enforcement,” said Dr Hutchins. “And that’s what faith communities are well placed to do.”

In early October, Faith and Blue will seek to reinvigorate police-community relations through town hall meetings, peace marches, picnics and other activities across the country.

“That’s what it’s about – it’s about activating local communities to make the voices of the silent majority heard,” Dr Hutchins said.

Chief Patrick Ogden, Associate Chief of Police at the University of Delaware, sees these partnerships as key to building stronger, safer communities.

“Police is much more important than law enforcement – the enforcement element is only one element and we can’t stop growing out of this problem,” Chief Ogden said. . “So we have to collaborate with community leaders and try to do educational programs, outreach – try to build that trust with people.”