Republican News · Thursday 18 May 2000

[An Phoblacht]

CRJ: Community response to crime

With the row over British legislation on RUC reform ringing in our ears the debate over the response to teenage crime and anti-social behaviour in working class communities across the North rages on.

The Policing Bill, published on Tuesday 16 May in the British parliament, is already under fire from republicans. According to Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams it ``represents a major departure from the Patten Report''.

d while for some this debate might only have its place in the bigger political picture, the continuing denial of a proper policing service reverberates throughout nationalist communities. In nationalist aeas in particular, the RUC defended the state while allowing crime to flourish.

This week, An Phoblacht spoke to Marty Morris from the Upper Springfield, in Belfast, who is involved in the area's Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) programme about the fears in communities across Belfast about violent crime involving teenagers.

Last Wednesday 10 May members of the Upper Springfield put on display an array of weapons, including a machete, which they took from teenagers in the area. Earlier in the week these same knives were used against local man Peter McCausland, who was stabbed four times and feels he is lucky to be alive.

``We want the Patten report implemented in full,'' says Morris. ``Our communities deserve to be policed properly and the RUC can't provide that service. It's almost two weeks since Peter McCausland was stabbed and the RUC have yet to contact him to get a statement.

``It is almost as if the RUC are looking on this as `Taigs attacking Taigs' so let them get on with it''.

As a key worker in the CRJ programme, Marty Morris explained that his group is dealing with ``more and more cases'', given that people don't trust the RUC.

``As the concept of CRJ becomes more familiar to people they are more likely to bring their grievances to us. People have asked us to be involved in disputes between neighbours, in assaults and in incidents of domestic violence. We seek resolution to problems and we shouldn't forget that when the RUC went to a domestic dispute in Newtownabbey three weeks ago a young man was shot dead.''

Calling for the full implementation of the Patten report is not however simply about scoring political points against the RUC, it points up the lack of commitment by the statutory bodies to the CRJ programme.

The RUC, of course, is opposed to the scheme maintaining that it is the only body with the authority to enforce law and order.

``With hundreds of volunteers coming forward to be trained in CRJ techniques, the commitment to the scheme is growing'', said Morris. ``We have so many people voluntarily giving of their time to tackle these problems collectively that we are getting somewhere, but I would appeal for more people to become involved.''

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