Successful community-based planning efforts are “bottom-up,” rather than “top-down,” meaning planning starts at the local level and builds to the state level. By comparison, “top-down” strategic planning is where the key executive or a leadership team of an organization makes a decision and imposes it on the organization. Community led planning is essential because often the best insights to problems come at the local level, rather than the state or national level. Crime, counter-terrorism, and other public safety problems have their impact locally, affecting individual citizens and communities directly. Strategies developed by local and community leaders will best respond to perceptions about public safety problems.
Communities and local governments manage the community-based planning process. Local participants identify necessary services, gaps in delivery, and the specific public safety problems to be addressed. The communities also develop and implement action plans to address these identified problems and innovative measures. SAAs support and facilitate community involvement by providing resources, training, and technical assistance. SAAs can help provide, analyze and present data, and can help set priorities – without imposing them on the community or local organization.
Role of the SAAs and Community Statekholders
At the state level, effective planning means that state agencies work with one another across the traditional boundaries and stovepipes, to foster meaningful relationships at the state level, and also with stakeholders at the local level. This helps to make the plan realistic and workable.
SAA leadership and staff share control over the agenda-setting process with local agencies. Research, statistical analysis and other background materials are provided to help define the current environment from an objective standpoint. Community stakeholders, such as local elected officials, criminal justice practitioners, social service providers, civic and religious leaders, and a variety of community leaders drive the process from the local level, providing insight and information that explains and interprets quantitative data presented by the SAA team. As issues are identified at the local level, additional data is collected, issues prioritized, and plans developed. All this is “bubbled up” to the state level to help set priorities and develop statewide spending funding and other agendas.
To be most successful, it is best to broaden the traditional scope of state and local law enforcement assistance by reaching out to other groups and communities within the community, such as housing agencies, education, human services, public health, homeland security, transportation, and citizen advocacy groups.