Civic Institute wins grant to start resource organization

On Friday, April 11, the Mercyhurst Civic Institute announced the beginning for the Neighborhood Resource Organization, an organization crafted to help empower neighborhoods within the Erie area and address the issues which plague them, such as violent crime and community disorganization.

To drive the NRO, the Civic Institute received a grant from the Erie Unified Youth Violence Reduction Initiative to hire an executive director, who will be “dedicated to training, assisting and sustaining the efforts of Neighborhood Watch Associations,” according to the agenda for the press conference.

The NRO is actually part of a Community Action Plan, which takes a three-pronged approach to reducing violence and improving neighborhoods, focusing on “Prevention, Enforcement, and Re-Entry.”

The NRO is part of the Prevention efforts of the plan, focusing on addressing the increase in violent crime.

“This is a county-wide initiative,” Andrea Bierer, Community Action Plan Coordinator, said. “Its goal is to support and empower neighborhood groups; any group that wants to identify itself as collaborative in nature and place specific, invested in the neighborhood.”

The plan, according to Bierer, is focused on providing support to the “people side” of improving the neighborhood, and empowering groups such as neighborhood watches.

“Those groups are almost always run by volunteers,” she said.

“When you have a volunteer, their skill set and what they have access to sometimes is limited by their whatever their job experience is, or what time they have. So, our goals with this organization would be to provide assistance, training, whatever kind of help they need.”

Amy Eisert, the Director of the Civic Institute, said that the NRO is actually a “joint venture between two institutes,” with the Civic Institute responsible for the administrative side, and the Public Safety Institute “be responsible for enacting the activities pertaining to the grant.”

“It’s all about trying to reduce crime,” Art Amann, Ed.D, Director of the Public Safety Institute, said.

“And if you can have more kids go to school, and find jobs, and improve the infrastructure of the community, all those things are all going to help in reducing crime.”
Public Safety plans to take a situational approach to addressing the needs of the neighborhoods throughout Erie, instead of trying to implement a blanket solution to a wide array of varying problems.

“One of the things we have to do early on is to assess the needs of the community, to hear from the people,” Amann said.

In regards to the NRO, and the larger Community Action Plan, confidence in success is incredibly high. “It’s going to work,” Bierer said. “This three-pronged approach of Prevention, Enforcement, and Re-Entry is comprehensive, and we have the perfect storm of people at the table in Erie.”