On January 30th, the Center for Court Innovation convened leading voices from Brooklyn to discuss neighborhood safety and well-being on a panel at the Robin Hood Foundation. The discussion, moderated by NY1’s Errol Louis, sought to re-frame the public discourse surrounding the definition and creation of safety and invited policymakers, city agencies, and foundations to engage with non-traditional concepts and solutions to the question of public safety.

The event began by grounding the conversation with a video highlighting the voices and perspectives of community members, before launching into the panel discussion. The panelists represented an array of approaches and backgrounds beyond law enforcement, corrections, or criminal justice (agencies typically associated with the creation of safety). Amy Ellenbogen, Director of Neighbors in Action, was joined on the panel by Mark Winston-Griffith, Executive Director of the Brooklyn Movement Center, Erica Mateo, Director of Neighborhood Safety Initiatives at Center for Court Innovation, and Marlon Peterson, host of the Decarcerated Podcast and Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity.

A full recording of the panel is available here.


Below are some of the takeaways from the thought-provoking discussion.

Use this section as a conversation starter for dialogue around achieving the vision of a safe neighborhood that you imagine for your community. For a deeper dive, explore the readings and resources that were collected as part of planning the panel.

1. Safety is not just the absence of crime, it is a multidimensional concept that looks differently to different people depending on their lived experiences.



2. We can create safety in our neighborhoods by creating strong, lasting relationships with our neighbors and building trust among residents.



3. Many of us are conditioned to think about safety with a law enforcement lens, which can make it difficult to imagine other options and approaches that are out there.



4. Creating more agency and options in the lives of residents is critical to increasing a shared sense of safety and responsibility in communities. Pressurizing a situation or treating residents as recipients, rather that participators, of policy is not helpful in creating safety and well-being.




5. People who do harmful things that make others feel unsafe are often acting in this way because they themselves feel unsafe.



6. Listening in a critical, yet respectful, manner and asking follow up questions such as, “why do you think that is what this community needs?” helps stakeholders understand what underlying issues are and shape alternative solutions to incarceration and law enforcement.



7. The responsibility to build and create safety lies with all residents of a community, not just with the police.



8. We need to look beyond crime statistics to evaluate which policies and programs are making communities safer. Measurements should include indicators of well-being, such as economic mobility, civic engagement, and education, as well as harder-to-quantify indicators like increased trust.



Readings and resources on re-framing safety


  • Transform Harm is a resource about ending violence and transformative justice created by Miriame Kaba and Joseph Lublink.
  • Health Solutions Create Safety is a menu of replicable programs and initiatives that respond to social challenges with health solutions rather than punitive approaches. One pager here, and link to more information here.
  • Santa Monica Wellbeing Project – Santa Monica is the first city in the nation to systematically measure how well its residents are able to thrive, and how the city can help them do it better. Link to their 2017 report.
  • Patrick Sharkey’s book, Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence. Link NPR interview with Sharkey.
  • Creative Interventions Toolkit to Ending Interpersonal Violence is a toolkit that assumes that the relationships, families, and communities in which violence occurs are also the very locations for long-term change and transformation.