Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents


Thoroughly capturing the vast, varied potential of service providers’ interventions and teasing out the nuance of their ideal applications are grand endeavors subject to numerous limitations. While this report has attempted to demonstrate the performance and promise of conflict-oriented interventions in criminogenically and preventatively relevant contexts, certain limitations worked against that objective’s fullest realization. Most notably, these limitations included the short duration of the original evaluation timeline (six months); structural constraints of the rapid ethnographic assessment methodology; and the variety of geographic, organizational, and programmatic contexts requiring attention.

Evaluation Timeline

This evaluation commenced prior to the completed initialization of all of the Catchment Area service providers’ contracted programming, and was slated to complete at the close of an aggressive six- month window. With this deadline in hand, the available evaluation methods and depth of analysis for all covered providers and interventions were substantially limited. From its onset, then, this evaluation was positioned and welcomed as an introductory review of the capacity for service providers to constructively contribute to NYC’s crime prevention efforts. Through that lens, providers’ capacity has been thoroughly validated. Still, more in-depth, time-intensive analyses of specific intervention impacts remain enticingly unresolved.

Structural Methodology Limitations

The competing preferences for inclusion and concision complicated the initial methodological decisionmaking. The choice to employ a rapid ethnographic assessment model significantly supplemented with extant research and external data sources helped address MOCJ’s interest in securing as inclusive an evaluation as possible given the available timeline. It also meant, however, that a methodical statistical validation of providers’ interventions, such as could have been achieved through more time intensive methodologies, could not be ascribed beyond extensive anecdotes and apparent similarities to aligned programs that have already benefited from such reviews.

Problems of Programming Panoply

A final limitation centered on the prevalence of prevention-relevant programming administered by and between the evaluated providers.474 Individually, each provider offers between three and fifteen distinct programs or initiatives with divergent objectives, geotargeting, and clientele compositions. Collectively, their aggregated portfolio contains programming that ranges from grade school peer mediation to elder mediation, from private one-on-one conflict coaching to multi-stakeholder open space technology, and from the seemingly criminally distant to post- conviction index crime wrap-around services. Even where programming between providers may appear to align – say through their near consistent provision of “community mediation” services – how those services are operationalized, who they attract, and what outcomes they achieve can vary significantly and complicate comparability substantially.475 Addressing this problem by focusing on the apparent themes within these respective programs helped to facilitate a more orderly review, but almost certainly contributed to the masking of idiosyncratic impact unique to a particular intervention or service population.

These limitations notwithstanding, it is the hope of the evaluator that this review has proven insightful for the service providers and their supporters alike, most notably MOCJ personnel. Regardless, any limitation-imposed oversights in the presentation of or misrepresentations as to the consequences from service providers’ interventions remains the exclusive responsibility of the evaluator and should not reflect poorly upon the providers or their work.


474. It is worth noting that this panoply problem is only problematic from an evaluation perspective. That providers have adopted a multi-pronged approach to addressing crime at both the individual and community levels only serves to extend their impact in a curvilinear dose-response – rather than a counteractive or even mere additive – manner. While some providers’ intervention portfolios could be optimized to more effectively address prevention-relevant conflicts present within their communities, the nature of crime prevention work has routinely validated that a greater diversity of thoughtful, multi-domain approaches is superior to single, one-size-fits-all applications. In this respect, providers’ programmatic panoplies are far more preventatively potent than in any way problematic.

475. This complication from labeling cuts both ways, as providers also have programs donning proprietary or preferred labels that are quite different, despite the core service actually being quite similar. This is a practice rife throughout service industries and has been previously noted as a complication in evaluating prevention- oriented services across organizations. See the caution against referring to program labels rather than specific program characteristics in: McLaren, K.L. (2000).