Mediation as an intervention to reduce gang violence
Published: 12 Dec 2014
Eric Phelps, a Detective Superintendent in the Metropolitan Police Service, has just returned from a seven-week Churchill Fellowship to the US. His goal was to look at intervention programmes aimed at reducing gang violence in several American cities, and to bring those lessons home to London.
For the past three years Eric has conducted extensive research into the outcomes of mediation to reduce gang violence in London whilst pursuing his Professional Doctorate in Criminal Justice. Early indications of his research show that those individuals involved in mediation are four times less likely to commit a violent offence than those gang members not referred.
In New York, Eric was shown the electronic case management system used by the New York Police Department to identify and target action against gangs. He also met with a team of officers who monitor social networking sites to track the activities of gang members, many of whom will post pictures of themselves with weapons, guns or drugs and openly boast about their exploits. The information gathered in this surveillance enables the NYPD to frustrate the criminal activities of the most violent offenders.
The Chicago Police Department is also using technology to provide a fast time response to gang-related incidents. Eric toured their state-of-the-art control room, staffed by police officers who know the city and have worked directly with the gangs. Their in-depth knowledge of the streets helps them find gang members faster and reduce crime rates.
In Boston, one innovative scheme uses faith-based volunteers instead of law enforcement to deliver mentoring, support and training to young people involved in gangs. And in Los Angeles, the Sheriff’s Department and the FBI give up their personal free time to mentor and support young people in challenging communities in an effort to divert them away from entering generational gang culture.
As a result of his visit to the States, Eric feels strongly that London needs an enhanced multi-agency approach from everyone in the Criminal Justice Partnership to focus on providing non-traditional interventions like mediation to minimise the escalation of gang violence.
“It may be more effective and efficient to target specific patterns of violent behaviour with mediation and a stronger focus on support, rather than simply using gang membership alone as the criteria for preventative and enforcement attention,” he says.
Eric will be incorporating his findings into his doctoral thesis, as well as sharing them at conferences in 2015.