The neighborhood response team : community based conflict resolution to promote civic engagement through restorative community justice

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Southern New Hampshire University
This project responds to a community perception that the quality of life in the City of Burlington Vermont is deteriorating and how residents overly depend on city departments, particularly the Code Enforcement Office and Burlington Police Department, to resolve their quality of life complaints. It examines the potential for community residents and municipal government to cooperatively participate in a community mediation project and - change their perceptions based on a new reality. With the support of The Municipal Code Enforcement Office, the Community Justice Center and the Community Support Program, this project engages volunteer community "peacemakers" to proactively problem-solve disputes that tear at the social fabric of their neighborhood. The Neighborhood Response Team is a cadre of volunteer community members recruited and trained to facilitate dialogue between disputants, affected neighbors, and the community-at-large. Community residents are the heart and soul of the Neighborhood Response Team. The Neighborhood Response Team project targets two populations; the city population in general and specifically, one low-income neighborhood in the Old North End of Burlington. Through participatory action, the project attempts to build social capital; to engage residents in a process to identify and resolve problems, build relationships and create a sense of community ownership. Therefore, the project employs best practices suggested in community development to strengthen engagement; to enable a productive, cooperative, and positive outcome based relationship between citizenry and government. To effectively implement and evaluate the project, recommendations for project development are based on meetings with: The Victim Justice Project, The Burlington Police Department, Burlington Housing Authority, community mediators, The Public Safety Project, The Community Support Program, The Department of Corrections, The City Attorney's Office, and the Municipal Code Enforcement Office. The initial findings of the Neighborhood Response Team reflect upon and present the discoveries, the developments and the challenges we embrace to refine this project to strengthen our concept of community. This Bureau of Justice Assistance partially funds this project. (Author abstract)