This is a project we completed from 2007 to 2010 under the government’s Invest to Save initiative. The remit was to develop a model of mediation for violent crime and anti-social behaviour.
To do this we engaged with the local community and involved them in the development of the project until we found what works.
We found that sharing skills is the best way to help communities resolve conflict. (See our section on communities).
The project was evaluated in 2011 by an independent evaluator and the key findings were:
- Our training provides people with immediate tools for use in conflict situations whilst also changing attitudes to dispute resolution;
- Our service prevents violence and/or the escalation of violence;
- We attract people as volunteers from diverse backgrounds who are not traditionally engaged in volunteering;
- We have a developed and piloted model which empowers people to use nonviolent communication for local problem solving and violence reduction.
Reduction in crime level and reduction in fear of crime is a goal for all national and local governments. In recent years urban city areas such as inner-city London are targeted by violent criminals using firearms and knives. Most violent crimes are also linked to drug trafficking, and condition of living in the area. For example, it is likely to seriously and severely affect boroughs and districts which are suffering a high degree of depravation in housing, education and employment.
Brent, an outer London borough is such an area. Brent Council’s Brent Crime Mediation Project is run under the aegis of Crime & Disorder Act (1998) and the national government’s Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) and Community Safety Partnership (CSP) programme. A variety of agencies are involved in this project which includes, inter alia, many law enforcement agencies such as police both local and Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), Probation Service and the Courts etc.
Brent is the most densely populated borough of outer London. Ethnically and culturally it is perhaps the most diverse area of outer London. It is also one of the most deprived areas in the country. It shares many of the inner-city problems like violent crimes, unemployment and poor housing and educational facilities with Inner London.
Brent is widely respected for its many crime prevention initiatives and community safety programmes using CDRPs and CSP’s.
Brent Crime Mediation Project
Brent Crime Mediation Project is part of the reduction of crime and making residential areas secure and safe as part of the priorities project under Invest to Save Bid (ISB) programme and has statutory backing in the form of Crime and Disorder Act (1998)(CDA).
The objectives of this project are to reduce crime especially violent crimes using knives and firearms, and provide the community with a safe and secure living place.
This will be achieved by a multi-prong attack on causes of deprivation. These include among other things better employment and training opportunities, offering alternative solutions to violence and generally offering a pleasant, secure and safe environment for people to live in.
This is to be achieved by a joint effort from a variety of agencies working in partnership. Such partnerships use the principles laid down under CDRP and CSP.
Centre for Peaceful Solutions (CPS)
Centre for Peaceful Solutions (CPS) will be responsible for delivering the deliverables of the project. CPS is a registered charity operating locally within Brent Borough; facilitating the use of mediation by mediating in disputes and conflict resolution in local schools where children and youths can observe mediation in action. And they provide a range of mediation services to the residents of Brent in neighbourhood and employment disputes. Further CPS trains suitable local residents in the skills of mediation. Although currently they operate locally, they have aspiration to go global.
CPS is headed by Maria Arpa. Maria is a resident in the borough. She is well aware of the social situation in the borough. She has been mediating and providing training in mediation skills across Brent for sometime. Maria was previously Chief Executive of Lambeth Mediation Service. She is a former Chair of Mediation UK. She has extensive experience in community mediation in several boroughs in London. The Brent Mediation Project will be building upon the early work to develop mediation in Brent which has been funded by South Kilburn NDC, Harlesden and Stonebridge NRF and Government Office for London (GOL). This is a classic example of ISB.
Their operation is heavily dependent on grants-in-aid from central and local governments. At the present time, Brent Crime Mediation Project funded by the Treasury is the main funding source for CPS.
In this project, CPS will be responsible for introducing a range of mediation services including training local residents starting with pupils at local schools, neighbourhood disputes and finally high risk mediation between gun and knife carrying disputants.
National and local governments have tried various methods of crime reduction such as law enforcement using statutory powers like Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), eviction orders and dispersal orders. All of these have met with some degree of success. Law enforcement methods do provide immediate relief, but enforcing the law is expensive and by nature divisive. It also creates resentment because of power imbalances.
The enforcement policy fails because it does not tackle the root cause of the problems. Even though the enforcing powers such as police and the judiciary are part of the government the ordinary person sees them as an imposition. Mediation, however, tackles all these issues.
It is important to recognise the diversity of mediation practice. This is because mediation is not monolithic but pluralistic. There are many different approaches to mediation practice, with varied impacts.
Because mediation is flexible, informal and not limited by legal processes, it can reframe a contentious dispute as a mutual problem. Mediator’s many skills, not least among them dealing with power imbalances, mediation can facilitate collaborative and integrative problem solving (rather than adversarial destructive legal judgement). Mediation is capable of producing a win-win result.
Mediation does not look at “Precedent”, but allows the mediator to be an entrepreneur.
At community level, the Social Justice Theory relies on mediators “reframing” skills to convert the problem to a common interest in a larger perspective. Thus, the mediation can make the weak stronger by helping them to establish alliances among them. It helps to form effective local grassroots community structures.
Most forms of crimes, particularly violent ones, start with a dispute or conflict. In any case “Conflict” is a part of human existence. There are many ways of resolving such disputes. One of the ways of resolving conflict or dispute is to use the non-violent process of mediation in managing and resolving conflicts effectively. This has been recognised as an effective means of resolving conflict mainly for the following reasons:
- without prejudice
Use of mediation in finding solutions to dispute is part of a major project involving a number of organisations with a stake in making the local area safe and attractive for current and future residents. These organisations have signed to a local area agreement (LAA) which will no doubt pressurise them to fulfil their part of the compact.
Once local residents see the tangible benefits accruing to them by the partnership of the various organisations, they too would like the locality to remain attractive and safe by standing up against those who are trying to sow the seeds of disharmony.
As CPS have experiential know-how on mediation and are recognised by locals as such, they have agreed to provide mediation service to the project. This will include among other things, training pupils at local schools and the general community. CPS will initially develop programmes for training the local residents which can later be exported to neighbouring boroughs.