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Greenspring* Neighborhood Conflict

*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the participants.

Call for Assistance

Mr. James, a community organizer from the Greenspring Neighborhood Association, heard about Community Conferencing and called for help.  There was an ongoing conflict between residents and young people who played basketball in the alley.

With summer vacation approaching, residents had growing concerns that a new basketball hoop in the alley would cause great disruption.

Twenty neighbors put their heads together

The Community Conferencing Facilitator explained to each neighbor that everyone would be given a chance to talk about their concerns and how it affects them, and finally--that everyone would decide on how to make things better for the future.  A total of 20 people participated including four young people and their parents. 

Almost immediately the conversation became a little heated.  The residents started pointing their fingers at the four young people.  “The noise, profanity, disrespectful attitudes, and the trash thrown in the alley while ball playing has got to stop!” exclaimed Tammy, a longtime resident.  Without hesitation, the young people defended themselves by explaining none of the adults ever asked them to be quieter; instead somebody always called the police.  And besides, they couldn’t take responsibility for all 10 kids who play in the alley. 

Dangerous Streets

The conversation shifted as some of the parents articulated their concerns.  Mrs. Miles, sitting next to her 15 year old son, shared how important it was to have her children within earshot.  Mrs. Miles gave an emotional plea, “The streets have become so dangerous… I don’t want to be constantly worrying about where he is and whether or not he’s safe.  The alley is close to our house and I don’t want him to leave the area.”  

Profanity and Trash

People nodded with understanding but that didn’t address the noise, the use of profanity, and the trash issues.  Ms. Sandy, a resident on the block, spoke about how she wanted to support the youth and their efforts to be safe, “but I can’t take another summer of non-stop alley activity.  My yard backs right up to where the basketball hoop sits, and I’m one of the neighbors most affected by the noise and trash.”

Everyone agreed that a compromise could be worked out.  Everyone thanked and commended the youth for not only attending the meeting, but also offering to be part of the solution.  A couple of the adults stressed that it was really important for the youth to be role models for more positive behavior.

More discussion brings resolution and a written agreement:

  • The youth agree to speak with their peers and tell them what was discussed during tonight’s meeting.
  • The youth agree to lead a positive example for other youth in the community.
  • The adults in the group agree to go directly to the youth in a respectful way (before calling the police), and the youth agree to respond to them in a respectful way.
  • Christopher agrees to provide a garbage bag so when he and his friends play basketball – he will collect and dispose of the trash.
  • Youth agree to abide by the following basketball schedule: Mondays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays 5-8 p.m.  (During the summer months youth can play on the above days between 1-8 p.m.)
  • Ms. Kendra agrees to help supervise the youth while the other adults are at work.
  • A contract will be drawn up and everyone in the community will be asked to sign the contract.  Mike [adult rep] & Christopher [youth rep] agree to write up the contract and have it completed in time for Saturday’s neighborhood block party.  Points discussed by the group to possibly be included in the contract are as follows:
    • Adults will approach the young people or their parents before calling the police.
    • No profanity
    • No littering in the alley
    • Follow designated days and hours of play
    • Consequence to broken contract will result in the basketball hoop being removed and it will not be placed outside the following scheduled day.

After everyone signed the written agreement, the conference ended.  But almost everyone stayed an extra half an hour to talk over refreshments offered by the Facilitator.

Follow-up

The Facilitator followed up with both Mr. James and a few of the other adults from the neighborhood.  Mr. James said the contract was ready in time for the block party and that several residents and young people signed it.  The family who own the basketball hoop reported they were happy with how things were going.  The Facilitator also spoke with Ms. Sandy, one of the more vocal opponents to the ball playing, and she said that things were going much better than last summer.

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