Police cars and fire engines filled The Boulders community in south Provo Saturday afternoon as service agencies trained residents in safety awareness.
The Boulders, a community that provides housing to low-income residents, had a fire in the community kill two people last year, and the complex has already had two reported fires this year. In an effort to prevent this from occurring again, and to help residents understand services available to them, a safety awareness event was organized by The Boulders residents to educate them on their options.
Community Action Circles, an organization that works with poverty-stricken communities, initiated a program in Provo, the first of its kind in Utah, to help community members improve their living conditions and lifestyle.
Joan Dixon, coordinator of the Circles program in Provo, said the program splits the community into different segments, which are represented by someone living in that area. Together, they formed the Neighbor-2-Neighbor committee, which helps residents voice their concerns and work together to build a safer neighborhood.
“Research shows that the safety of a neighborhood relates to how well people know each other, the representative’s job is to do outreach to neighbors and take care of one another,” Dixon said.
The representatives work together to plan service every week and improve relationships between residents and management. The city has really gotten behind management with working with the community.
Jennifer Steele, one of the residents on the committee, said the idea is to promote safety awareness among the residents, and have the city look at the community in a more positive light.
“I’m hoping if we can promote a lot of things here and show the city we’re doing something, the city will change their view of the people who live here,” she said.
The program started when the mayor, along with some concerned residents, met together to work on helping the community with problems plaguing their neighborhood.
Rebecca Martell, family service coordinator at the Utah County Family Justice Center, works with families and individuals who need help with legal matters, along with other matters regarding family law, such as abuse and destitution.
We’re trying to remove barriers for victims to leave and create a heathier environment for themselves and their children,” Martell said.
Other organizations were there to inform and educate residents on how to protect and help themselves.
The fire department had their “Learn Not to Burn” trailer out to teach children how to prevent and deal with fires.
Capt. Dan Cather of the Provo Fire Department said most of the education they provide is for children. He said they want children to know how to properly use 911.
“A big thing was getting the kids to know their addresses, to tell responders where they are and to help them truly understand what an emergency is,” he said.
JB Kent, an officer with the Provo City Police, said while they have had to deal with a high volume of incidents in the past, the number has gone down as the community has worked with the police. Previously, police dealt with a lot of fighting calls, both gang and domestic. To tackle the problem, the chief of police pushed for a community-based policing approach.
“Specific officers were tasked to locate problem individuals who have affected the well-being of residents here,” he said. “We interact more with citizens and become partners in trying to provide a safer community for all of us to live in and have community members let us know where we can help them out through preventative policing.”
David Lowell, a junior from Bountiful majoring in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, works for the Red Cross with their Hispanic outreach program. Until last summer, the Red Cross did not teach classes in Spanish.
“We give classes in the Franklin Community Center to the residents in the Boulders like CPR, first aid and disaster preparedness in Spanish,” he said. “It has been a great experience to give them knowledge they couldn’t access before.”
Provo Mayor John Curtis was there to show residents they have the support of the city. He was concerned about the accidents and loss of life that have occurred. Provo has been contributing largely by working and meeting with the residents monthly, along with the police and fire departments, along with other non-profit organizations.
“This emphasis on safety is very important, he said. “I’m pleased to see neighbors spending time together. Whenever neighbors know each other, crime goes down and good things happen. This is largely put together by neighbors, and that’s just a fantastic thing.”