Here are a few examples of situations which could have been prevented had the neighbours possessed the correct skills, techniques and confidence to defuse the conflict.
Case Study 1: The Football Row
In 2008, a father of three was murdered following a row over a football. What started as a disagreement between children escalated into aggression, was followed by violence, and resulted in death. Mr Martin had confronted some children about teasing and not returning another boy’s ball. Mr Kelly, who had nothing to do with the children, threatened Mr Martin. Instead of remaining calm and defusing the matter, Mr Martin decided to take action with violence. Mr Kelly then escalated the situation further and Mr Martin was fatally wounded. Mr Kelly later claimed that his actions were self-defence. He was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eleven years in prison.
What’s important here is that neither person was willing to back down. Neither Mr Martin or Mr Kelly used defusing skills to calm the conflict. On-going disputes between neighbours can cause misery to those involved and the wider community. This conflict escalated to the point where almost every action was seen as personal.
The impact on the police and other agencies in responding to disputes (which could be defused by those involved, or avoided altogether) is diverting resources away from other areas of policing and public services.
Case study 2: The Flower Row
In 2011, BBC News reported that a couple had received a police warning after their three daughters (aged 10, six and four), had picked some daffodils from a local park in Dorset. The family were enjoying a day out when a relative of Conservative Councillor Mr Adams, whose home overlooks the park, called the police.
Two officers attended the scene and advised the parents that the young girls’ actions were classed as criminal damage. Ms Errington, the girls’ mother, explained that she didn’t know she was doing anything wrong, let alone committing a crime. Had Cllr Adams approached her and explained the matter, the parents would have simply told their daughters to stop.
This is another albeit less severe example of a conflict that could have been resolved without consulting the police. Cllr Adams should have calmly approached the family and requested they stop.