Regional

Big drop in family-related crimes in Manchester

Monday, March 31, 2014    

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THE two-year-old Manchester Dispute Resolution Association (MDRA), set up to help reduce domestic conflicts, has reported a noticeable drop in murder and other related crimes, according to National Security Minister Peter Bunting.

At the time of its formation, the parish was experiencing a steady rise in familial murders and other crimes, but through the work of professionals called 'first responders', at the end of 2013 there was a 16-per cent reduction in family-related crimes, especially murders.

"The statistics were showing that most of our murders, unlike other police divisions, came from domestic situations," Bunting told JIS News as he reviewed the work of the group he initiated.

"We pulled together a team, including Northern Caribbean University (NCU), the custos, the lay magistrates, the police, and representatives from the political leadership in the parish. It has trained well over 100 community members to be first responders to domestic violence," he added.

The minister explained that the group's task is to "identify a situation that is at risk of escalating to become a crime statistic, intervene and refer it to a trained social worker, or a community policing officer, so that a peaceful resolution can be achieved".

He said that as a result of the success of the group, he has requested the help of psychologist at NCU, Dr Grace Kelly, to document the work, "so that we can replicate it in other police divisions".

Head of the Area 3 police division, Assistant Commissioner Derrick Knight, said the police have recommended that the concept be rolled out in the other two parishes in the division, Clarendon and St Elizabeth.

"There is tremendous success since the formation of this association. The police have given its support and we continue to support it because we see it as being beneficial to the reduction of crime and violence in the parish," Knight said. He noted that persons who were involved in conflicts did not carry out any act of violence after speaking with the first responders.

Chairman of the association, Pastor Michael Harvey, said members of the group are professional persons "who are committed to nation-building, and really want to make a difference".

He pointed to an incident in George's Valley in which the association got involved after the house of one of two persons involved in a dispute was burnt, heightening suspicion and tension.

"We went there, met with the individuals separately and did some counselling. Then, with the aid of the community leaders and the councillor, we brought the people together and they made restitution," Pastor Harvey related.

It turned out that the fire was caused by an electrical problem.

The association, while offering training in conflict resolution to community members, also seeks to help those in need to set up small business enterprises, especially in agriculture.

One beneficiary of a chicken project, Winston Robinson, said that he would be expanding, with help from the association. He said he was grateful to the group for assisting him, describing their work as a "good helping hand".

In the community of Blue Mountain, the association is far advanced in setting up a hydroponic agricultural project for the residents.

Community member Lorian West said she was impressed with what was happening with the venture. "We can succeed through this, because this technique can let us reach far in life. This is a great start for us," she said.

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