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The University City District and the Philadelphia Police Department were rewarded last week for reducing serious crime in University City by nearly 50 percent over the past 15 years with a $20,000 award.

The award from the MetLife Foundation, which was given for “extraordinary partnership to improve community safety,” was presented to UCD and the Philadelphia Police on Nov. 4. The crime reduction in University City is over twice the percentage of crime reduction in all of Philadelphia, according to UCD’s press release.

There were over 540 applicants for the award, which is administered by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. It honors partnerships that “reduce crime and spur economic revitalization of a neighborhood,” according to its application. Four other organizations also received the award in the same category, neighborhood revitalization and economic vitality.

“The Philadelphia partnership is an exemplary model for groups nationwide facing similar challenges and opportunities,” said Dennis White, president and CEO of MetLife Foundation, in a press release.

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Part of the reason why that partnership is so successful, according to Director of Community and Business Services at UCD Steve Walsh, is because of strong communication between the Philadelphia Police, UCD and other local public safety organizations.

Walsh, who oversees the “clean and safe” aspect of UCD’s mission, said that UCD safety representatives meet weekly with safety officials from the Philadelphia Police, Penn and Drexel, among other local organizations, to discuss crimes in the past week.

That way, “nothing gets by us,” he said.

However, he noted that the community also plays a large role in keeping itself safe.

“These folks that live here really take ownership of their neighborhoods,” Walsh said. When people hear problems in the area, they ask, “This is happening, what can I do to fix it?’” he added, instead of just complaining.

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UCD Communications Director Mark Christman also noted that changes in the neighborhood over the years might have helped contribute to the 50 percent decrease in crime since 1998.

“When you see the progress, you’re seeing a rapidly growing skyline, iron chefs coming to the neighborhood, you’re seeing more employees … it speaks to the [change],” he said.

“You find a level of awareness and commitment by the folks who reside here,” Christman said. “It really speaks to that amazing depth of public safety infrastructure.”

This is the second time UCD and the Philadelphia Police have been honored with a MetLife grant. In 2004, the partnership received a grant for the work both organizations did in revitalizing and improving safety in the Baltimore Avenue Commercial Corridor.

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