Neighbour Hood Support

Neighbourhood Problem Solving

Crime and disorder occurs when a likely offender and suitable victim come together in a location that is poorly protected. Problems are defined and responded to by tackling one or more of these factors.

Members of the community are often in the best position to make a long lasting and positive impact on crime and disorder in their neighbourhoods. Once identified, most problems can be solved.

Problem solving is a useful process for dealing with similar crime or disorder related and recurring incidents such as neighbourhood burglaries, vandalism, graffiti and speeding motorists. Problem solving involves working through a systematic process of considering and addressing the causes of underlying problems instead of reacting to each incident as a disconnected one-off.

There are four stages to the problem solving process:

Scanning: Using knowledge of previous incidents to identify where there is a problem.

Analysis: Using all available information to discover the characteristics and causes of the problem.

Response: Working together to devise possible solutions and choosing the best one.

Review: Looking back to see if the solution worked and what can be learned.

 

Roles of Key People

Facilitators: People prepared to lead the process and see it through to its conclusion.

Participants: Neighbourhood people and agencies prepared to contribute their knowledge and skills to identify and respond to the problem.

 

The Process

The process as outlined here is divided in to three phases - assessment, response agreement and review. It is modelled on a similar process used by the Portland Police in Oregon who work in partnership with their community to identify and solve local problems. Documenting the process helps clarify the problem and obtain participant commitment.

The process starts with a meeting of people interested in resolving the issue. Community agency representatives who might be able to assist are invited to attend the meeting and participate in the process. Depending on what the problem is, other participants might include police, local council, schools, retailers and media. Agencies should not be permitted to take over and dominate the process but should be held accountable for completing their commitments.

A neighbourhood support group can be an ideal medium for the problem solving process, as members are already committed to sharing information, ideas and insights to make their community safer.

 

Example

Young people gather in the park at night drinking, littering, and causing damage on the way home. Potential responses might include:

  • Involving the local authority in tackling a lack of lighting in the park (location)
  • Finding out why the young people (offenders) congregate in the park and if there is some other place they could go where they might behave
  • Asking the local community (victims) to watch the park, call the police when youths are seen drinking, and lobby the local authority to provide better amenities for the young

You can browse an excellent collection of Problem-Specific Guides on how to reduce harm caused by crime and disorder, from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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