Trenton Community Street Teams (TCST)

Trenton Community Street Teams (TCST) is a community-based violence reduction initiative supported by Isles and [other Trenton partners?]. This initiative complements traditional policing strategies with public health approaches, including relationship-based direct intervention, mentoring, and case management. Our team of local community members work to connect those most at risk of becoming a victim or perpetrator of violence to needed supports, mediate disputes, facilitate safe travel to and from school, and promote nonviolent behaviors in their neighborhoods. Read more about each of our services and programs below.

HIGH RISK INTERVENTION

The primary function of TCST is to respond directly to community-based violence incidents in their areas of focus, mitigating conflicts and connecting those in need with counseling, crisis intervention, and other resources.

Team members will negotiate personal conflicts and diffuse tensions that could result in violence. The high-risk interventions could include relocating domestic violence victims, negotiating the return of a carjacking victims’ vehicles, supporting the families of homicide victims to complete VCCO applications, resolving drug disputes, and more.

MENTORING

TCST offers mentoring and case management, including hardship assistance, life management skills training, social service assistance, wellness support, legal support, survivor support, and employment and education referrals.

Our outreach workers help clients enrolled in our program complete a 6-month life plan and life skills training sessions and connect them to the services needed for a full lifestyle transformation. Outreach workers are actively engaged in the day-to-day lives of their clients and can conduct home visits, travel with participants to job interviews and social service appointments, as well as help to engage clients in extracurricular activities.

COMMUNITY SAFE PASSAGE SERVICES

TCST partners with school security and the Trenton Police Department to provide Safe Passage services, where outreach workers are present at key exits and entry points of schools, bus stops, stores, and intersections where youth congregate. The overall goal of Safe Passage is to develop relationships with local youth and intervene and mediate in potential conflicts to ensure that students arrive at school and make it home from school in a safe and timely manner. Each incident observed by TCST will be logged into a monthly report and kept on file for all partners to utilize.

COMMUNITY WALKS AND BI-WEEKLY MEETINGS

TCST will participate in community walks held in areas impacted by violence throughout the city and will facilitate bi-weekly meetings known as the Public Safety Roundtable. Community walks will include residents, business owners, and key municipal staff with the goals of raising awareness of acute violent incidents and promoting positive messaging to prevent future incidents. The Roundtable will then invite community members to engage with elected officials, law enforcement, service providers, nonprofit organizations, and faith leaders in discussion of present and future plans within their neighborhoods and the larger Trenton community.

VICTIM SUPPORT AND ADVOCACY

In order to support and advocate for victims of violence, TCST will provide Assertive Community Outreach or short-term/crisis counseling. This will connect crime victims and their families to social services, clinical services, and other community resources. Some resources that will be available to victims are:

  • Educational supports – independent tutoring provided by outreach workers and assistance in enrolling in vocational or job training programs
  • Wellness services – assessments by TCST social workers and references to counseling from mental health care providers and medical care
  • Job services – job referrals, access to professional attire, and job training programming, including training on resume writing and interviewing
  • Emergency hardship assistance
  • Home and school visits – access to TCST providers that can determine quality of life and educational struggles through home and school visits
COMMUNITY SENTINEL PROJECT (CSP)

The CSP consists of 20 resident-volunteers that are deployed as first responders to low-level quality of life issues such as loitering, school disputes, and personal disputes in a 4-block radius around identified hotspots. This work will be coordinated with TPD and free up their resources to focus on more pressing public safety issues. Street teams will recruit, train, and supervise the 20 volunteers who will work directly with the TCST’s High Risk Intervention team. When appropriate, the CSP will have the ability to connect residents to:

  • Mediation/conflict resolution/restorative justice services 
  • Referrals to support groups/wellness services 
  • Emergency Safe Houses
  • Pro bono or reduced cost legal assistance 
  • Emergency relocation assistance
  • Emergency restraining orders 
  • Victim of Crime application assistance 
  • Emotional support 
  • Intervention/prevention/education programs 
  • Public safety training 
  • Resources (books, pamphlets, videos) on healing trauma related to violence
  • Working with community members to develop a strategy for addressing quality of life issues 
  • Hardship assistance

The Challenge

Violence in the city has spiked in recent years, with a record 40 homicides in both 2020 and 2021, and at least 148 shooting victims in 2020, with more than a third of those incidents involving youth under 24. In addition to homicides, incidences of assault and burglary also steadily increased between 2018 to 2020 and continue to rise. Violent crime remains a significant issue in the city, with a person in Trenton being 6 times more likely to be a victim of violent crime than in the rest of New Jersey. Violent crime especially impacts Trenton’s youth.

Existing public safety measures can’t or don’t address many of the systemic issues that lead to violence in Trenton. Isles already works in violence prevention for local youth through Isles Youth Institute, Afterschool Programming, and the Increase the Peace Initiative, but we believe more can be done to support victims of violence and those of all ages susceptible to violence, as well. TCST aims to address these gaps, uplifting Trenton’s neighborhoods and stopping the cycle of violence through a more holistic approach to violence prevention.

Why Trenton Community Street Teams?

TCST was created in response to the uptick in violent crime in recent years and throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and is part of the City of Trenton’s coordinated public safety strategy. Community-based violence prevention programs have seen success in reducing violent crime in other cities like Trenton, and TCST aims to utilize the City’s most valuable resource – residents, business owners, and community members – to fight against Trenton’s rising violent crime.

Individuals in TCST are those who have established relationships with the neighborhoods they work in, and they often have lived experience with the criminal justice system and incarceration. Each member of our High Risk Intervention Team receives 40 hours of training in community-based intervention strategies, violence deterrence, gang intercession, and crisis abatement, and is able to utilize that training to help intervene in local incidents of violence and conflict.

The goal of TCST is to build relationships with communities to support survivors of violent crime and stop the cycle of violence in Trenton. Through direct intervention, mentoring and case management, Safe Passage, and other services, TCST will build up a network of community members who have the tools to stop and prevent violence in their own neighborhoods. This network, in partnership with Trenton Public Safety and other partners, can work to address the root causes of violence and make Trenton a safer place for all of its residents.