Is your block safe? What about the area surrounding your neighborhood's schools? Crime may be down overall, but regular reports of violent crime in schools have many community members increasingly concerned about neighborhood and school safety. There are programs available that help law enforcement keep the peace by raising awareness and providing guidance to those who wish to get involved. The largest of these programs is the nonprofit National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC).
Offering a wide variety of safety programs, publications, training modules, and technical assistance, the NCPC is the nation's premiere crime prevention agency. Perhaps best known for their mascot of 26 years, the trench-coated, crime-fighting police dog McGruff, the NCPC is also one of the oldest crime fighting programs in the country. The group also spearheaded the highly successful Neighborhood Watch Program, which has been educating homeowners about how to proactively monitor their own neighborhoods for decades. Above all, the mission of NCPC is to enable people to create safer and more caring communities by addressing the causes of crime and violence and reducing the opportunities for crime to occur.
Out of Many, One
Responding to what was perceived as a general sense of futility toward preventing crime in their neighborhoods, the leaders of more than a dozen anti-crime organizations came together 30 years ago forge a more direct alliance between concerned community members and law enforcement professionals. The idea was simple: to work for safer streets, parks, and schoolyards, and to empower citizens to take an active role in preventing crime in their own neighborhoods and blocks. With this goal in mind, the various groups banded together to form the Crime Prevention Coalition of America (CPCA).
To take the CPCA's message nationwide, the group hired an advertising firm (formerly Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, now Saatchi and Saatchi), and teamed up with The Advertising Council. The new organization released its first press release in 1979—and in 1982, the coalition founded the NCPC to manage the campaign, administer the coalition, and promote crime prevention. February 1980 saw the first television appearance of the dog in the trench coat urging citizens to "Take a bite out of crime." McGruff the crime dog became the voice of the crime prevention movement.
"In addition to an icon that is recognized around the world," says Michelle Boykins, NCPC's director of communications, "one of our biggest successes is that when we started 26 years ago, people largely believed that crime prevention was up to law enforcement. Today, three out of four Americans know that there is something that they themselves can do to reduce crime."