The “Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016,” or the “NEAR” Act, is a comprehensive, public health-based approach to crime prevention and intervention.
The NEAR Act was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council in spring 2016, however the Mayor declined to fund many of its programs in the D.C. budget. But the programs remain on the books, they just require funding from the D.C. Council.
The Act adopts a public health approach to crime prevention and intervention by addressing the root causes of crime in a long-term, sustainable way. Collaboration among law enforcement, workforce development, and social services agencies lies at the heart of the law.
The NEAR Act:
- Takes a public health approach to public safety by establishing the Office of Violence Prevention and Health Equity (OVPHE) in the Department of Health. The OVPHE will be charged with developing and implementing a public health strategy to combat the spread of violence using risk assessment tools, cognitive and family-based therapy, and service coordination. The OVPHE will also place trained personnel in every hospital emergency department to respond to victims of crime immediately and deescalate violent situations.
- Identifies and engages at-risk violent offenders through the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (ONSE). The ONSE will identify and recruit individuals determined to be at high risk of participating in, or being a victim of, violent criminal activity in a program combining evidence-based counseling, mentorship, and workforce development. The program is modeled after an innovative and successful initiative in Richmond, California.
- Links behavioral health issues and crime through the Community Crime Prevention Team Program. The Act establishes a new program that will pair mental and behavioral health professionals with Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers. The teams will identify and serve individuals with unmet needs who frequently interact with police.
- Uses open data and training to improve policing. MPD will be required to collect data on felony crimes, stops and frisks, and use of force incidents. The Act’s data collection provisions will allow the District to meet many of the goals of President Obama’s Police Data Initiative, such as using open data to build transparency, increase community trust, and improve internal accountability and data analysis. The Act also requires continuing education for officers on community policing; recognizing and preventing biased-based policing; the use of force; limitations on chokeholds and neck restraints; mental and behavioral health awareness; and linguistic and cultural competency