“Seeking Safety”:
A Solutions Approach to Crime & Public Safety Reporting in Fayetteville

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Fayetteville, North Carolina, has one of the highest crime rates in America for a city over 100,000 people, with sky-high rates of larceny (8th highest in the U.S.), burglary (6th), and property crimes (5th). For decades the city known to many outsiders as “Fayettenam” has battled its reputation as a crime-ridden metropolis (population 204,000) – and for decades, well-meaning officials and community leaders have tried to worked together, but usually ended up battling each other, jockeying for power and trying to implement policies that eventually died when cooperative efforts disintegrated.

In November 2013, the Fayetteville Observer, the oldest continually published paper in North Carolina and one of the largest family-owned papers in the country, launched a year-long series covering issues of crime and public safety in the city. But rather than dwelling on well understood problems — drug abuse, political corruption, or the glaring absence of community and police resources — “Seeking Safety” looked at effective solutions to crime in similar cities, and how Fayetteville might implement them. The series took reporter Greg Barnes to thirteen cities in seven states as he produced one in-depth feature a month.

The result was a series that changed the newsroom culture, engaged readers, and connected community leaders in collaborative efforts to try to tackle the problem and implement some of the solutions. Here’s what we learned.

Case Study: [Download the PDF]

How the Fayetteville Observer changed the conversation around crime: