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Pastor calls for clergy to step up crime prevention | Community Spirit

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Pastor calls for clergy to step up crime prevention
Pastor calls for clergy to step up crime prevention

The following is a statement from Rev. Jesse Turner of Pine Bluff.

"Pine Bluff has no FACES. Pine Bluff needs Faith And Community Empowering Strategies (FACES) to help clergy move the city forward in Crime Prevention and Community Economic Development (CED). We need more pastors like Saint Dewitt Hill, Jr. and Bishop Esau Watson, Jr. who create jobs through projects, e.g., housing development projects, and transportation service which create economic development for Pine Bluff. 

"Viewing Pine Bluff's economic development and crime prevention from the perspective of a pastor I understand the real need for increased involvement of clergy. The clergy wants to take a lead in creating a better quality of life in the community, but many do not have the necessary skill in crime prevention or economic development to take on these issues. Pine Bluff is 70% black and I estimate that 95% of the crimes are committed by Blacks for lack of employment. I place most of the responsibility for changing this picture on the backs of ministers, especially the black ministers. He or she is the one community comes to for spiritual advice and direction however because they are not versed in community economic development or crime prevention this leaves him/her somewhat embarrassed for lack of knowledge and skills.

"In a recent survey, clergy responded that they thought the three major economic problems in their neighborhood were: (1) Unemployment (2) Lack of health care and (3) Lack of education. They responded that they thought the three major crime problems in their neighborhoods were: (1) Drugs (2) Robbery, [breaking and entering] (3) Assault and battery. The clergy indicated unemployment was the number one issue in economic development and drugs were ranked at the top in crime prevention. In response to, “To what extent do you believe clergy involvement can impact crime and economic development”, clergy members responded as followers: 50% some impact, 17% significant impact, 33% very significant impact. While clergy believes they can make a difference and create change, many remain on the sideline.

"The Faith and Community Empowerment Strategies (FACES) is designed to enhance the involvement and capacity of clergy members in crime prevention and economic development within the Weed and Seed neighborhood. The FACES project focus is on skills and knowledge of faith leaders rather than a local neighborhood. Clergy members have their own associations, conferences and conventions; most if not all of their gatherings don't always address community economic development or crime prevention. As communities organize to impact change for their neighborhood in community development and crime prevention, the same approach is needed to engage the clergy.

"I recognize the influence and ability possessed by clergy members to change the moral direction of an individual’s life.  The influences of clergy have the potential to move a neighborhood out of poverty into a better quality of life.  Rev. Leon Sullivan exemplifies this success as he organized in the sixties to train black kids in his church to achieve and later the organization became a premiere Community Development Corporation (CDC) that trained a large number of minority workers and developed their own manufacturing enterprise. Another way clergy in Pine Bluff could utilize the church would be a place for job training and resume preparation, among other things. Just as progressives sought explanations and responses to poverty in local communities, clergy members can be organized, educated and empowered to advocate against deteriorating housing, poverty, economic development and crime prevention as well. 

"The FACES project wants to help organize ministers in Crime Prevention and Community Economic Development which will result in increased assets, a reduction in crime, and a restoration of pride in the neighborhood where pastors and churches are located. Clergy promoting neighborhood building, new homes through CDC's can create neighborhood jobs and help people escape poverty as a result of clergy and church initiatives.  Thus, coming together as clergy and using their influence to focus on economic development and crime prevention create businesses that can sustain the community, provide employment and reduce crime.  Furthermore, I have additional tools to organized, plan and educate the Faith Community regarding the power of clergy to influence economic development and reduce neighborhood crime. Community economic development impacts the neighborhood by stabilizing and stimulating job creation that ultimately reduces crime. Pine Bluff needs FACES to empower clergy."

Jesse C. Turner, MS Community Economic Development

Pastor Elm Grove Baptist Church, PBA; 870-536-7274