Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Mechanism of Impact

Annexated Endearment

Annexated endearment is the process of improving perceptions of and experiences with the criminal justice system through its integration of mediation, restorative justice, and related services.

On its surface, annexated endearment is achieved when patrol officers are able to refer arguing neighbors to an interest- and future-oriented mediation center. It occurs when prosecutors and judicial officers incorporate restorative components into their diversion, plea, and sentencing arrangements that encourage active, facilitated, and unconstrained voice from victims, offenders, and their networks. It also occurs when program volunteers develop a deeper awareness of and appreciation for the criminal justice system.342 More subtly, annexated endearment is achieved when organizations facilitate the surfacing and repair of negative meta- perceptions343 held by historically or contextually conflicted groups; efforts that serve to disrupt aggression paths, reduce harmful conflicts, and improve cooperativeness between in- and out- group members (i.e. law enforcement and the local community).344 In these and other ways, the leveraging of community dispute resolution processes and organizations to improve community relations with police, prosecutors, and the courts has a long, effective history.345

Benefits from annexated endearment include reducing fear;346 increasing reports of crime347 and victimization;348 enhancing law-abiding self- regulation,349 transferring350 and reinforcing351 the perceived legitimacy of and securing greater proactive engagement352 and cooperation353 with law enforcement;354 and even improving officers’ own legitimacy perceptions,355 procedural consistency,356 and personal well-being.357 Achieving these gains within the current climate of increasing community tensions toward law enforcement positions annexated endearment as a mechanism of particularly timely importance.


342. “Public participation allows those involved to develop a keener understanding of the workings, principles and values of the system and to counter misapprehensions. As such it can increase individual’s confidence and assuage fears through greater information and by moderating public expectations of what criminal justice can deliver. Community involvement in criminal justice can increase public knowledge and understanding of the system and the legitimacy of the decisions taken” (Crawford, A., Newburn, T., 2002).

343. Negative meta-perceptions are the feelings of being subjected to prejudice (Gordijn, E., et al., 2008), stereotypes (Sigleman, L., Tuch, S.A., 1997), or dehumanizing (Kteily, N., Hodson, G., Bruneau, E., 2016) beliefs or behaviors. Efforts that facilitate the repair of these perceptions are important from a crime prevention lens, as their presence is associated with extreme expressions of discontent, including aggression towards out-group targets, support for in-group wrongdoings, and non-normative collective actions (Owuamalam, C., et al., 2014).

344. Negative meta-perceptions are important to address not only because of the severity of consequences probable when left unaddressed, but because of the subtle pervasiveness of these often sub-conscious and structurally-reinforced perceptions. For example, beyond viewing another through the lenses of their sociodemographic or group memberships, simply contextualizing another as an offender, a suspect, or a statistic – classifications core to criminal justice constructs – can subtly infrahumanize (Leyens, J.P., et al., 2007) out-group members in ways which ease the cognitive burdens to engage in, entrench, and escalate negative intergroup interactions.

345. This goes to the motivational roots of the modern dispute resolution movement, wherein alternative dispute resolution processes were integrated into the formal justice system in an effort to be more responsive to societal expectations. Specifically, community mediation in the U.S., was incubated by the Department of Justice in an effort to, at least in part, re-establish trust in public authorities and the justice system (U.S. Department of Justice, 1977; Baskin, D., 1998). Evidence from community mediation organizations’ earliest beginnings (Sheppard, D.I., Cook, R.F., Roehl, J.A., 1978), onward into their modern implementation (e.g. Townley, A., Moore, P., Ramos, M., 2001), and yet emerging from ongoing learning communities focused on strengthening community and law enforcement relations (National Association for Community Mediation, 2015) collectively present a storied history of these entities’ efforts to improve citizens’ experiences with the criminal justice system.

346. As dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system is one of the strongest predictors of perceived risk and fear of victimization (Rader, N.E., May, D.C., Goodrum, S., 2007), initiatives that help improve public perceptions of the criminal justice system, including through annexated endearment, can have a direct impact on the prominence and spread of local fear of crime.

347. In a recent DOJ report examining rationales behind not reporting victimization experiences (Truman, J.L., Langton, L., 2015), the perceived effectiveness and intensity of police responses were examined. It is notable, then, that if potential reporters (victims or bystanders) perceive the magnitude of a potential police response to exceed the desired intervention (i.e. police involvement is too draconian and punitive of an option) reports of criminal activity will be artificially withheld. This hesitancy to withhold reports increases as victims and offenders have anything other than a stranger’s familiarity. By equipping police officers with a less intense response option, mediation and restorative referrals minimize report hesitancy and increase their knowledge of a truer scope and scale of local criminal, disorderly, and uncivil activity.

348. Kochel, T.R. (2012).

349. Barnes, G.C., et al. (2015).

350. Though the transference of legitimacy between state and non-state actors has not been widely explored, one apt – if not altogether comfortable – analogy is the transference of legitimacy observed between the military and private security contractors in conflict zones (Phelps, M.L., 2014). In that context, lent legitimacy flows from the state to the non-state partner. Here, however, the hypothesis is that the superior production of procedural fairness by non-state mediation and restorative justice organizations will enhanced the perceived legitimacy of these organizations’ state (i.e. police, prosecutors, and criminal courts) partners. From a broader frame, the flow of legitimacy is rather reciprocal in nature: ADR organizations benefit from greater legitimacy by being the state’s chosen referral option, while the state benefits from the enhanced service experience ADR organizations provide. The unique contribution of the annexated endearment hypothesis, then, is overtly acknowledging the beneficial flow of legitimacy from external ADR organizations to their government partners.

351. A recent systematic review of the voluminous procedural justice literature (Mazerolle, L., et al., 2013) confirmed the causal connections between perceptions and experiences with procedural justice, perceptions of police legitimacy, and subsequent criminal activity. Higher levels of perceived procedural justice produce higher levels of perceived legitimacy, and subsequently less criminal activity. Conversely, perceived injustice is associated with higher levels of criminal offending.

352. “In the context of criminal justice, citizens’ active engagement with the local police – for example, by offering information in relation to a specific case, or in participating in a consultation on local policing priorities – can be seen to function in a similar way [i.e. strengthen perceptions within the community of police officer legitimacy and its attendant beneficial cognates such as confidence and trust” (Bottoms, A., Tankebe, J., 2013).

353. “People are more likely to obey the law when they believe that those who are enforcing it have the legitimate authority to tell them what to do ... The public confers legitimacy only on those they believe are acting in procedurally just ways” (President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2015). A recent literature review reinforces support for the connection between public perceptions of procedural justice and cooperativeness with the police, particularly among crime victims (Koster, N-S.N., et al., 2015). Importantly for service providers’ Catchment Area interventions, this cooperation occurs even in areas of concentrated disadvantage that have a history of strained police-community interactions (Gau, J.M., et al., 2012; Tyler, T.R., Fagan, J., 2008).

354. While many of the overtly positive benefits of annexated endearment are detailed in the preceding notes, it is important to acknowledge that not all of the consequences may be obviously positive. For example, inasmuch as annexated endearment encourages greater engagement with the criminal justice system, it may paradoxically present temporary increases in select measures of criminal activity. This potential byproduct is the result of enticing observers and victims from the shadowy dark figure of unreported crime and into the light of criminal justice system where it can be both known and constructively addressed. Importantly, this uptick is a result of the system’s expanded awareness of crime, and not an objective increase in the total number of criminal incidents occurring. (Metrics that measure once invisible aspects of criminal activity have been termed ‘intervention-related-activity metrics’ and are generally understood to represent progress in nuanced law enforcement rather than measures to [continue] avoid[ing]. See: “Invisible Harms,” in Sparrow, M.K., 2008). This is easy to envision for a typical patrol officer who, once having gained the trust of xyr local community, is increasingly entrusted with criminally-relevant incidents which had always been occurring, but for which the related information had been previously withheld by some members of the local community. This trust aggregates and could well present as blips or bulges in COMPSAT metrics depending on the effectiveness and scale of the endearment efforts. Ultimately, however, knowledge of and reporting of these dark figures benefits law enforcement officials by having a more complete and actionable understanding of their operational realities.

355. In a study of officers from 643 local police/sheriff’s departments across the U.S., officers reported procedural fairness was critical to establishing and maintaining residents’ trust and – in high-crime areas – obedience (Nix, J., 2015).

356. Adopting departmental policies that provide officers with more opportunities to apply procedurally fair interventions to ambiguous, complex, and protracted situations – such as making referrals to local community mediation entities – can help enhance not only the public’s impression of enforcement activities, but the consistency and quality with which officers actually implement those activities.

357. When empowered to deploy more procedurally fair interventions, officers were “more likely to trust and feel obligated to obey their supervisors, less likely to be psychologically and emotionally distressed, and less likely to be cynical and mistrustful about the world in general and the communities they police in particular” (Trinker, R., Tyler, T.R., Goff, P.A., 2016).