By Jade Frazier
At the corner of East Carver Drive and South 20th Street, a community organization of self-proclaimed “fearless” men and women assist police officers in an effort to reduce crime in south Phoenix.
The 10,000 Fearless Men and Women of Phoenix, also known as 10,000 Fearless PHX, launched a free, 24-hour conflict resolution service, in May of this year.
Conflict resolution is a way for two or more parties to find a peaceful solution to a disagreement among them. When a dispute arises, often the best course of action is negotiation to resolve the disagreement, according to Community Tool Box.
Phoenix experienced a 6 percent increase in violent crimes between 2014 and 2015, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Some of these violent crimes include manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault and robbery.
In the last year, 144 residential burglaries, 91 aggravated assaults, 78 motor vehicle thefts and three homicides were reported within a mile of the 10,000 Fearless PHX house, according to LexisNexis Community Crime Map.
10,000 Fearless PHX director of operations Sister Sahirah Muhammad said the organization chose the location because the neighborhood, which was “known for love and family” was “deemed the worst area” in Phoenix due to criminal activity.
City of Phoenix police officer Wade Cheatham partners with 10,000 Fearless PHX to keep tabs on what’s happening in the neighborhood.
He said his method to combat crime in south Phoenix is to try and be more vigilant. Eyes and ears are the most powerful tools the community can use to help create change in a neighborhood, he said.
“If there is something that I can help get resolved then, hey, I’ll do it. I will go to (whatever) means I need to, find out the resources needed and try to get those issues resolved,” Cheatham said.
10,000 Fearless PHX communicates with law enforcement when an incident occurs. The men and women will try to help resolve the problem with “therapeutic” methods like open dialogue.
A neighbor located down the street from the 10,000 Fearless PHX house said she is grateful for 10,000 Fearless PHX after someone tried to break into her house.
“These two guys across the street were watching my house, and when one of my work clients came through the door he ran right up on top of her,” Kelmer Elizabeth Muhammad said. “They asked for water, but when I realized he was trying to get inside, I called the police first. While I waited for the police to show up, I called 10,000 Fearless and they were there within 15 minutes with their community patrol truck.”
She has been living in her property since 2003, and the break-in incident was the first time someone tried to target her house.
“When you are working with the police, it is so much better,” Kelmer Elizabeth Muhammad said. “As a single woman, they made me feel secure. It is so nice to know I have a back-up in the neighborhood now.”
Officer Cheatham said he supports the mission of 10,000 Fearless PHX because he grew up down the street from the 10,000 Fearless PHX house.
“I have seen a big difference now (that) they are out there,” Cheatham said. “I don’t respond to as many calls as I use to in the past, but since they have been out there, the collaboration with them and us working together allows us to see the same results.”
“The police are very vital; they make the conscious effort to let us know what is going on,” Sahirah Muhammad said. “We cover this particular area, but there are things that we may not know. We are not police officers. We help to assist them anyway we can, more so from a therapeutic standpoint.”
The organization’s mission mirrors the teachings of Louis Farrakhan, who started the 10,000 Fearless movement across the country in response to the proliferation of gang violence. The house in Phoenix is the first location in Arizona, which joined a national network of more than 70 posts.
Farrakhan “called for 10,000 fearless men and women to be trained and to stand between the gangs and the guns and go in the streets and be able to ‘squash the beefs’ by using ‘conflict resolution’ as a tool to stop killing,” Chair Student Minister Charles Muhammad wrote in an email.
10,000 Fearless PHX location
Sahirah Muhammad said the trust level between the police and the community is broken, so 10,000 Fearless PHX wants to help rebuild the trust.
Douglas Wooten, who lives around the corner from the 10,000 Fearless PHX house, said one change he would like to see is more police officers patrolling through the area more frequently.
“Don’t come over here and show a force when you think something is wrong. If you are going to come through here, come through here on a regular basis,” Wooten said.
Officer Cheatham said he drives through his old neighborhood and works on building relationships.
“We try to take bad guys off the street, but we also need the community to call and say, hey, this is what’s going,” Cheatham said.”Don’t be afraid we will come, but we need you (community) to get involved.”
The National Institute of Justice recently funded five studies exploring factors that influence satisfaction with the police. The research suggests that satisfaction with law enforcement is shaped by neighborhood crime conditions, demographic variables and encounters with the police — whether first-hand or indirect.
Michelle Rogers, a south Phoenix resident, said she supports neighborhood watch organizations that can work with law enforcement. “We need to take notice of what is going on in our community. We need to lay a foundation out for our youth and teach them the ways that they need to go,” Rogers said.
10,000 Fearless PHX also offers a food pantry, youth and education programs and clothing drives. One partner is the Percy L. Julian School.
“Not enough people want to sit down anymore and actually talk,” Phoenix police Sgt. Keith Doherty said at the 2016 National Day of Nonviolence at Hermosa Park. “I am a big fan of just sitting down and talking to people.”
Doherty said police officers are just folks in the community who help enforce policy. “It’s the simplest concept. Unfortunately, sometimes we do have to be the bad guys. That is just part of our job. We also get to do good stuff, like go to events, and I think people need to see that we really want to be the good guys,” he said.
“Our logic is, let us help in your efforts,” Sahirah Muhammad said of 10,000 Fearless PHX. “If we’re able to help bridge the gap, then we make it easier for (the police), and we make it safer for the community.”