Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Geography of Analysis

Service providers operate in one of the most concentrated,35 culturally diverse,36 and conflict- laden37 cities in America. Their services target everything from multiple Boroughs to specific housing developments, police precincts, school districts, and dozens of location-parsable service areas in between. Under its current design, MOCJ contracts with service providers based on two geographic levels of focus: Borough-wide and Catchment Areas services.

NYC Boroughs

A single Borough-wide contract for ADR services (collectively totaling $800,000 annually) is provided by MOCJ in each of the City’s five Boroughs. Currently, each awarded provider is serving the Borough(s) of its recent operational center, in alignment with the operating areas also recognized MOCJ’s long-time ADR contracting partner, the New York State (NYS) Unified Court System (UCS).38

Borough-wide service providers are operating with the benefit of long-established and diverse local relationships; ensuring their services are both visible and responsive to the many constituents they seek to serve. Their services are open to anyone through direct self-referral, though are primarily engaged through select channels, such as court- affiliated programs, school-based services, and other program-specific referral partners.

Catchment Areas

Catchment Area services are a recently developed focal area established in response to the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety (MAP) that targets 15 of the City’s most crime-plagued New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments39 with the objectives of enhancing neighborhood safety and reducing violent crime.40 Citywide, $316,392 has been allocated in FY2017 to four mediation and restorative justice service providers operating across six MAP15 developments.

The operating conditions of these micro- communities are intensely challenging. Physical signs of disorder and disrepair – everything from the expected wear of a system-wide aging housing stock to remnants of Sandy-related destruction in Red Hook – amplifies signals of social disorder41 and elevates incivilities – from what, in another environment may be rather unnoticeable behaviors – to fear-inducing signals of pending harm. The widespread presence of ghost residents42 complicates the formal processing of even low- level conflicts – let alone serious, crime-involved conflicts – by routinely placing official residents’ housing statuses in jeopardy. Resistance by NYCHA housing managers to substantively engage service providers has complicated providers’ entrance and embed strategies. Finally, the leery and weary condition of even long-time area residents43 challenges the marshaling of local resolve to address the complicated causes, correlates, and consequences of area crime.

Unsurprisingly, neighborhoods – especially those in the above states – are important influencers in the development of early delinquency and criminal career trajectories.44 Further, compared to the broader population, socially marginalized communities45 and individuals46 are far less likely to be deterred from future offending when subjected to traditional criminal justice interventions. As such, the value of having service providers coordinate non-traditional, interest- oriented conflict and crime desistance programming is of undeniable importance for the occupants of and outlooks for local Catchment Areas.

Figure 6. Profiling Borough’s Specific Criminogenic Needs

This visualization identifies the presence and scale of select contributors to the aggregated criminogenic risk profiles of NYC’s unique Boroughs. Within these true-to-scale ‘Borough fingerprints,’ the actual geographic location of service providers’ offices and assigned Catchment Areas are identified to highlight the complex physicality and overall dynamism of providers’ operating environments.


35. Ewing, R., Hamidi, S. (2014).

36. Bernardo, R. (2016).

37. Amongst U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000, NYC has the highest total number of UCR offenses reported to Law Enforcement with 83,525 total violent, property, and arson crimes for the first half of 2015 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015).

38. Specifically, MOCJ’s collaboration with the NYS UCS Office of Court Administration’s Office of ADR helps ensure NYC residents have reliable access to constructive conflict engagement services; establishes uniform data capture and reporting requirements; and provides distributed, stable funding for CDRCs. While the specific design of this collaboration continues to evolve with time, these core products and the priorities they signal are immensely important for the abilities and stability of the service providers.

39. Fifteen NYCHA developments in particular – collectively accounting for 20% of all violent crime in public housing – have received heightened attention from the DeBlasio administration, including the provision of $210.5 million in funding for a comprehensive citywide plan that provides more targeted law enforcement efforts, immediate physical improvements, aggressive community engagement and outreach efforts, and the expansion of work and education programs. As a component of that broader effort, the evaluated service providers are part of $15.6 million in funding to expand key programs to help build stronger individuals, families, and communities. (Office of the Mayor, 2014a) Depending upon the investment utilization rate, funding for conflict intervention services as provided by the evaluated service providers represents a maximum of 10% of the program expansion allocation and 0.76% of the overall initiative allocation.

While the initiative’s current focus is on these fifteen developments, Catchment Area mediation and restorative services were originally solicited for 26 NYCHA housing developments. This broader list, to which service providers responded included four in The Bronx (Butler, Castle Hill, Edenwald, and Patterson); 12 in Brooklyn (Brownsville, Boulevard, Bushwick, Ingersoll, Marcy, Pink, Red Hook [East and West], Tompkins, Van Dyke [I and II], Whitman); seven in Manhattan (Grant, Jefferson, Kings Towers, Polo Grounds Towers, Saint Nicholas, Wagner, Washington); two in Queens (Queensbridge [North and South]); and one on Staten Island (Stapleton) (Office of the Mayor, 2014b). Mediation and related services were secured for fewer than half of these (see Figure 27).

40. This is a key objective outlined within MOCJ’s originating Request for Proposals (released 2014-12-23, PIN: 0021510002) to which the successful service providers responded. More broadly, the MAP initiative is intended to coordinate the tactical application of City agencies, local organizations, and neighborhood residents in ways that “address concentrated disadvantage and physical disorder, and promote neighborhood cohesion and strong citywide networks” (de Blasio, B., 2016).

41. “From the point of view of the residents exposed to these differing forms of disorder [physical and social], they are not seen as being separate and isolated. Rather they are collectively read as being connected to each other and mutually conditioning, and consequently a picture of an increasingly threatening and ominous environment is articulated” (Innes, M., 2014).

42. Ghost residents are individuals who maintain an unauthorized residence in NYCHA housing developments. NYCHA’s own figures estimate up to 100,000 unauthorized ‘ghost’ residents currently occupy its numerous developments (Blumgart, J., 2016), increasing the total NYCHA housing population by up to 25% (New York City Housing Authority, 2016).

43. In a telling example of local resignation, one long-time community partner described a neighboring NYCHA development as a “dystopian bazaar of crazy, drugs, poverty, and salt,” admonishing the evaluator to not venture westward into its confines after dark...or before.

44. Warner, T.D. (2012).

45. Formal institutional deterrence mechanisms (e.g. hot spot policing; Stop, Question, and Frisk; vertical patrols; misdemeanor crackdowns) and their harsh consequences can produce iatrogenic and counterdeterrent effects in areas of concentrated disadvantage. This occurs, in part, due to compromised social control mechanisms present in these areas (i.e. less social capital or regulation, stigma erosion as a result of punishment prevalence, and dissatisfaction with systemic distributive and procedural justices) (Fagan, J., Meares, T.L., 2008). Initiatives that deliver non-traditional deterrence mechanisms and that work to enhance the collective efficacy of disadvantaged communities can help remediate the underlying causes of and resulting consequences from verschlimmbesserung policing. Conflict-assistive interventions are just such initiatives.

46. For select crimes, “arrest increased recidivism among those with a low stake in conformity, the unemployed, and the unmarried” (Sherman, L.W., et al., 1992).