League’s Partnering Center will take problem-solving process to struggling Westwood


By Mark Curnutte
Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio

WESTWOOD – Rattled by an uptick in gun violence this year and two decades of simmering racial and class tensions, this West Side neighborhood is beginning what it hopes is a healing process.

In conjunction with The Community Police Partnering Center – housed and staffed by the Greater Cincinnati Urban League — the Westwood Civic Association and Cincinnati District 3 Police will hold a community meeting Saturday morning.

“Westwood Uniting to Stop the Violence: A Call to Action” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to noon, Nov. 14, at Westwood United Methodist Church, 3460 Epworth Ave. More than 100 people are expected to attend, organizers say.

Dorothy Smoot, Executive Director of The Community Police Partnering Center, said meeting participants will follow a proven problem-solving method known as the SARA Model. The acronym refers to the model’s four-step process: Scanning, Analysis, Response, and Assessment.

“This process allows for inclusion and is designed to remove biases and preconceived notions,” said Smoot, also Program Director of Greater Cincinnati Urban League.

The SARA Model has been employed in the past 13 years to help residents of several Cincinnati neighborhoods work in concert with police to solve community crime and mayhem.

From January through October this year, Westwood has experience 35 fatal and non-fatal shootings, compared to 10 overall shootings in the same period in 2014, event organizers say. Neighborhood leaders are calling on residents, youth and community organizations, and the faith community to pull together to curb violence and reduce social tensions.

Westwood is among the group of conjoined West Side neighborhoods that is now home to 20 percent to 30 percent of Hamilton County’s felony probationers, registered sex offenders, and adult parolees, along with increasing numbers of people living in halfway houses and recovery programs, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported in December 2013.

From 2000 to 2010, the white population of Westwood and East Westwood dropped 35 percent, from 22,700 to 14,850, according to Census data. The African-American population increased 45 percent, to 17,500. Some long-standing homeowners have blamed newcomers for the increase in crime and decrease in property value.

In Westwood and East Westwood, owner-occupied housing dropped from 47 percent in 1980 to 36 percent in 2010. The poverty rate for those two neighborhoods jumped from 6 percent to 22 percent.

“No single approach will result in reduced gun violence in our neighborhood,” said Mary Jenkins, president of Westwood Civic Association. “We will only achieve this goal if we understand the data, join together across socio-economic differences and diverse life experiences, take a multi-pronged approach to resolving this issue, and commit to action — together.”

The together piece is where The Partnering Center comes in and what it does best.


Some recent case studies:

— Working through The Partnering Center, North Avondale residents collaborated with police on a 2009 plan to eliminate calls for drug use and sales in a Reading Road apartment building.

— In 2010, The Partnering Center, police and the Su Casa Hispanic Ministry Center came together to halt the trend of unreported personal crimes in Carthage against members of growing Central American immigrant community. Trust increased between Spanish-speaking residents — some of them without legal immigration status — and police. The plan and increased communication resulted in a crime reduction of 15 percent in one year.

— In 2011, The Partnering Center used the SARA model in CUF (Clifton Heights, University Heights, and Fairview) to reduce prostitution and related drug trafficking by helping the women receive drug treatment in a residential setting.

— In 2012, coming off a year of a city neighborhood-tying high of 11 homicides, Avondale called upon The Partnering Center to create the Moral Voice program. Using data that spotlighted high-crime parts of the neighborhood, in this case, Ridgeway Avenue, residents worked with police to identify the small number of people responsible for drug dealing and gun violence. The communication and cooperation that came about through the SARA model played a major part in the reduction of homicides; in 2012, Avondale had just one homicide, and that a police shooting of an armed drug dealer who drove into Avondale from another neighborhood.

Throughout the past decade, many other neighborhoods — Northside, Madisonville, and Evanston among them — worked with The Partnering Center to address neighborhood “hot spots.” Use of the SARA model resulted in reductions of calls for police service, more community awareness and responsiveness, and drops in crimes against persons and property in all cases.

One particularly transformative process using the SARA Model in Northside led to the closing of a business catering to local drug dealers, the acquisition of the property and subsequent development of two LEED-certified single-family homes on the site.


The Community Police Partnering Center, created in 2002, grew out of Cincinnati’s ground-breaking Collaborative Agreement. The agreement, signed in 2002, resulted from Cincinnati’s period of civil unrest uncorked by the police shooting of an unarmed black man, Timothy Thomas, in April 2001 in Over-the-Rhine.

Long housed in Cincinnati’s Urban League, The Partnering Center received a needed boost in 2013, when the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio board resolved to support and maintain the center.

Now it’s Westwood, Cincinnati’s largest neighborhood, home to some 30,000 residents in a 6 square-mile community that — like many adjacent neighborhoods, East Westwood, East Price Hill and North and South Fairmount — has experienced dramatic racial and economic change since 2000.

Solid, plentiful and affordable housing stock has made Westwood and surrounding neighborhoods destinations of necessity and choice for people displaced from redevelopment of the West End in the late 1990s and the government-supported gentrification of Over-the-Rhine since the mid-2000s.


Councilman Christopher Smitherman and new District 3 Police Commander Aaron Jones are expected to participate Saturday morning. The City of Cincinnati recently approved an additional $125,000 in spending to support The Partnering Center.

“This event marks the beginning of a great effort by a community to employ problem-solving called upon in the Collaborative Agreement,” said center leader Smoot. “Working together to solve problems is the foundation of the Collaborative Agreement.”

These Companies are Transformational Supporters of the Urban League’s Corporate Heritage Annual Giving Program.