Since the North Belfast office opened in 2009, CRJI has set about bridging the gap between our community and the wider statutory and justice world. Our motivation for this is the belief that working-class communities are best served when residents are facilitated to make full use of the agencies and organisations with a remit to serve them. Marginalisation and estrangement from the statutory world and justice system relegates residents and entire communities to a passive role - merely waiting and hoping for problems to be fixed for them. CRJI has always sought to challenge that sense of powerlessness. A recent example of this is our North Belfast Safer Homes Project which gives an insight into the rationale and dynamic behind genuine, effective community safety.
Bulk order of our alarms
Firstly we set up a community safety consortium of three organisations with a geographical spread across upper North Belfast. The three organisations - CRJI, Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum (CCRF) and Ligoniel Improvement Association (LIA) pooled our information, researched the statistics and worked with police to determine local community safety and crime priorities. Attacks on the person, burglary and theft were consistent issues and led to a significant fear of crime. So we set about drafting an effective response. Recognising both the benefits and the limitations of the statutory- led 'Beat the Burglar' initiative in getting alarms and crime-prevention advice to the most appropriate residents; our consortium set about designing something more tailored for local people.
A meeting with the police Crime Prevention Team identified the best personal, door and window alarms available to us. A joint NBDPCSP application to fund these alarms was successfully submitted and a bulk order was delivered to us at the end of 2019. Determined to access the residents who needed us most, we brought a member of the local policing NPT onto our steering group and established a system whereby officers dealing with victims or those fearful of crime could refer them directly to us for additional support. North Belfast Safer Homes was also promoted through Neighbourhood Renewal and the Inter-Agency meetings so a wide array of statutory, voluntary and community organisations were aware of the project and how to refer to it.
Launch of North Belfast Safer Homes
As 2020 progressed Covid-19, the subsequent lockdown and social distancing requirement radically altered society here. Meetings and gatherings were curtailed, organisations and businesses closed and a palpable sense of fear spread. Being embedded in the community, CCRF, LIA and CRJI were able to adapt quickly and to the benefit of all our residents. Large events are no longer feasible so we work on a street by street basis with volunteers and practitioners who can identify and engage residents most in need of our additional security provision and support. Housing providers, police, community workers and residents can all easily access our scheme and get alarms and support for those in their care. We have received referrals from across the political divide and travelled throughout the North of the city to ensure people living here can feel a bit safer and more supported. Our extensive community links mean these alarms packs and advice have gone across the interface, to areas throughout north Belfast, to the elderly and infirm unable to leave their homes and to the new families recently arrived in Belfast from other parts of the world.
Alarm packs were delivered across the interface
It’s a modest project with a basic structure. But North Belfast Safer Homes illustrates the benefits of a community designed and led project to make residents safer. The areas in which we operate have often had a disconnect with the statutory world around them. It is invaluable at this time, when the pandemic has eroded society’s sense of security to have local people and organisations working street by street, family by family to give people reassurance and support. Looking to the future it is important that the lessons from NBSH are learnt. More trust must be placed in community organisations with experience and expertise at a local level - these are the people best placed to identify and address the need of the community around them. And genuine partnerships where police, statutory agencies and community organisations come together in support of residents should be promoted. That is the challenge to us all in the months and years ahead. BE SAFE.
NBSH in operation at the heart of the community
For more information on North Belfast Safer Homes contact:
North Belfast CRJI – 02890753043 | email@example.com
Cliftonville Community Regeneration Forum – 02890749147 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ligoniel Improvement Association – 02890391225 | email@example.com