Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Mechanism of Impact

Signal Ministrance

Signal ministrance is the awareness of and remedial attendance to select criminal, disorderly, and other uncivil incidents that portend broader social problems and, therefore, exert remarkable influence upon perceptions of risk and how people think, feel, and act in regard to their security.407 Identifying and attending to these signals abate local perceptions and the objective occurrence of troublesome incidents.

The role of embedded service providers is important here because while social disorder is one of the most salient contributors to quality of life408 and risk409 perceptions, it is one of the weakest areas of data capture for law enforcement.410 Further, institutional awareness of the true scope and scale of crime, disorder, and other incivilities is particularly limited in communities with strained police relations.411

Through their work in surfacing matters of individual and communal concern412 (i.e. through embedded presence, aggregated intake, group facilitations, and Open Space events), service providers are able to design responsive interventions and appropriately flag matters that would benefit from the awareness or active involvement of official others.413 In this way, service providers tend a sort of organic early warning system for pending risk414 – constructively engaging incivilities (e.g. disorderly neighbors, loud noise, out-of-school youth) and moderating the prominence and spread of their negative influence.

Further, MOCJ’s support to providers sends its own control signal, an indication to the public that their active engagement in the facilitated resolution of their conflicts is both institutionally and socially desirable.


407. Signal ministrance is the prevention-relevant application of ‘signal intelligence,’ a concept pioneered by Innes, M. (2004, 2005, 2014). For reference, some of Innes’ key terminology is as follows: Signal Crime: a criminal incident that is interpreted as indicating the presence of criminogenic risk. Signal Disorders: physical or social indicators of unwanted risk. Signal Incident: a combination of signal crimes and signal disorders. Incidents achieve signal status when they produce affective, cognitive, of behavioural changes in how people conceive of their security (Innes, M. 2004, 2014).

408. Taylor, R. (2000).

409. The greatest predictor of perceived crime risk – either generally or to one’s person or property – is the presence of neighborhood incivilities including, among others, disruptive neighbors (Ferraro, K., 1995).

410. Innes, M. (2005).

411. This raises an interesting consideration for the measurement of prevention program impact. If, as Innes (2005) suggests, policing of ‘low-level disorder’ has traditionally received nominal enforcement, preventative services will be challenged to demonstrate their impact if they rely upon or are held to the criminal justice system’s formal metrics, as those fail to accurately capture the areas’ actual conditions. In this way, interventions would need to generate returns greater than formal metrics’ distrust distortion effect before an objective impact could be acknowledged. Programs that generate returns below the rate of this effect may well be contributing important crime prevention gains, but would be hard-pressed to quantitatively validate those contributions.

412. “Although people may have their individual concerns, in respect to many neighborhood issues, risk perceptions often have a strong collective dimension. There is often widespread agreement between people in an area regarding what the key problems are, but at the same time, there is considerable variation between areas for the signals driving public insecurity” (Innes, M., 2004).

413. “The raison d’etre of the ‘signal crimes’ approach [to crime prevention] is to determine what, amongst all the problems that local officers know about [or are informed of], should be targeted because they are causing most social harm” (Lowe, T., Innes, M., 2012). This is important, because “if police officers are allowed to define what problems that they work on, then in all likelihood they will continue to rely on a hierarchy of seriousness derived from that contained within the criminal law” (Innes, M., 2005). Research indicates, however, that the objective criminality of an incident exerts “only marginal influence in terms of its power to shape public perceptions and sentiments” (Innes, M., 2014). Sub-legal incivilities and disorders, on the other hand, can be far more influential in terms of shaping public risk perceptions (Innes, M., 2014; Bottoms, A., 2006).

414. Goffman, E. (1972).