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As Crime Surges in US Cities, Strained Police Forces Turn to Houses of Worship for Help

A police officer prays with grieving citizens.
A police officer prays with grieving citizens.

Major American cities are facing a perfect storm. Violent crime is growing and law enforcement agencies are struggling to keep officers on the job. 

Now, some of these cities are bringing faith to the frontlines as police departments fight the increasing crime with fewer officers. 

In Gresham, Oregon, Sgt. Travis Garrison says a crime spike is forcing his department to choose which calls and crimes they can send officers to. "We're only able to investigate murders," Sgt. Garrison said. "We'll routinely respond to shootings but if the person is going to survive, we are not going to follow up on that."

"Triaging" or prioritizing first responders is becoming commonplace. In Philadelphia, police disbanded their abandoned car unit. In Los Angeles, police cut their homeless outreach and animal cruelty teams. 

"This is going to take years for us to recover from and my hope is that the people that I work with, that they stick it out," said Sgt. Garrison. 

As a growing number of police walk away from the job, violent crime still surges in several major U.S. cities. In an unprecedented move, departments are turning to houses of worship, hoping faith can help reduce that trend. 

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More than 25 law enforcement groups joined prominent faith leaders on Capitol Hill, Tuesday – inviting communities to participate in the 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 one weekend can spark change. 

"With crime and violence escalating – with our communities under siege and under attack, our best march at this moment is not against law enforcement but it's with law enforcement," said Dr. Rev. Hutchins. "And that's what faith-based communities are positioned to do."

In early October, Faith and Blue will seek to reinvigorate police-community relations through town halls, peace walks, picnics and other activities nationwide. 

"That's what this is all about – it's all about activating local communities to raise the voices of the silent majority," Dr. Rev. Hutchins said. 

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

"Policing is much greater than law enforcement – the enforcement piece is just a piece and we can't arrest our way out of this problem," Chief Ogden said. "So, we need to collaborate with leaders in the community and try to do educational programming, outreach – try to build that trust with people."

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