Photos courtesy of the Long Beach City Prosecutor's Office.
A beautification program administered by the Long Beach City Prosecutor’s Office took home a top prize last weekend at the 41st annual Neighborhoods, USA conference in Memphis, the city announced this week.
The national nonprofit NUSA, which works to build and strengthen neighborhood organizations, found the office’s Community Service Worker Program exemplary in its effort to physically improve the city. As a result, the program received first place in the physical revitalization section of the 2016 Best Neighborhood Program Awards that closed the conference May 28.
"My office is honored to win ‘Best Neighborhood Program’ from Neighborhoods, USA, and this recognition confirms that our program is a model for other prosecuting agencies," City Prosecutor Doug Haubert told the Post. “The CSW program would not be a success without the hard work of everyone in my office, and our community partners Long Beach has been a leader for years in looking for ways to improve the community, and CSW is a good example.”
The program was created by the City Prosecutor’s Office in 2002 and is run through a collaboration with the Long Beach Superior Court, the Long Beach Volunteer Center and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Marine, according to the office’s website.
It allows individuals cited for minor offenses—such as driving on a suspended license, having an open alcoholic container in public, discharging fireworks, loitering in park after hours or petty theft—to perform supervised community service in lieu of jail time and/or pay fines.
“Sometimes people can avoid a conviction or prevent the case from being filed in court, which reduces court congestion,” Haubert said. “This program helps to beautify our public spaces while saving taxpayer dollars.”
Volunteer work typically includes cleaning up local parks and beaches, painting out graffiti, pulling weeds at a community garden or help with a neighborhood cleanup.
Haubert said at the conference his office highlighted the use of workers at the Peace Garden located inside Martin Luther King Jr. Park each month and the Los Cerritos Wetlands in the city’s Third District.
About 80 percent of the CSW cases are never filed in court because individuals sign up and complete their hours instead. The other 20 percent of cases are diverted from the court with the city prosecutor’s approval and the person can either earn a dismissal, reduction in fine or avoid jail time in some cases, Haubert said.
The program has averaged nearly 1,000 cases over the past two years. In 2015, volunteers completed 31,349 hours of community service. The office screens all cases to make sure only non-violent offenders are diverted to the program, according to Haubert. To learn more about the program, click here.