Getting into Good Trouble: Dartray Belk '07
The passion for community building has always been an inherent part of Dartray Belk’s life. Belk first became interested in law enforcement in high school, and, as a student in UHart’s College of Arts and Sciences, he pursued studies in criminal justice. Through his adviser and mentor, Associate Professor Albert Dichiara (currently chair of the Sociology and Criminal Justice Department), Belk was introduced to the city's Weed and Seed program—a continuation of a national, federally funded program in the 1990s aimed at "weeding" out the negative to prevent crime, while planting seeds of positivity and strengthening surrounding communities. Soon after, the Hartford Police Department invited Belk to become the first student in the area to assist in the project. Belk developed an understanding of the crime conditions in the communities and worked on ways to assist local community leaders and community-based organizations. He also worked with after-school youth programs to engage youth, emphasizing the importance of education and strategic decision making to better their futures.
Fast forward twenty years, Belk became a detective with the New York City Police Department. In 2014, during the Mass Gang takedown in Harlem where about 100 teens of rivals gangs were arrested, Belk and his commanding officer of the 26th precinct had a sit-down and strategized a way to ease the tension in the community, bringing alongside elected officials, local clergy, and community-based organizations to push and assist the families affected. Belk thought back to his Hartford experience with Weed and Seed, and started a similar initiative, called the Basketball Classic Fun and Food Day in Harlem. This initiative was one impactful step in helping to heal and build trust between the community and the police. Through his work, Belk has left a lasting legacy as this initiative has grown into an annual event involving various nonprofit organizations, a healthcare clinic, and community leaders who have been able to develop longlasting relationships and partnerships within the community, while providing essential resources.
Belk's passions remain rooted in community building—in his precinct and beyond, and he continues to help improve UHart’s community through volunteerism on the Alumni of Color Task Force. In 2019, he was recognized with the Anchor Award, the University’s highest alum honor, for his outstanding professional accomplishments. Currently, he serves as an NYPD Detective Liaison to the Borough Commander of Patrol Borough Brooklyn North.