Jackson County grant will help KC group’s efforts to improve conflict resolution

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- New statistics from the FBI show violent crime in Kansas City continues to climb.

Fighting is often blamed for sparking shootings and assaults. Now, there are some new efforts aimed at teaching people how to work things out instead of resorting to violence.

In training sessions in Kansas City, thousands of people are learning how to fight better.

"Having some place where people recognize and know that they can come to get help when they have conflict before it escalates to violence, is an important thing," said Annette Lantz-Simmons, executive director for the Center for Conflict Resolution.

Last year, Debbie and her husband could hardly stand to be in their home. Almost from the time they moved in, the family had been fighting with their neighbors. They, and police, recounted their story for the Center for Conflict Resolution.

"It was even uncomfortable pulling into my own driveway," Debbie said.

It started as a property line dispute, but quickly became routine bickering and repeated calls to police.

"We don’t have time to just take out of our busy schedule when we’re trying to go to people with emergencies," Officer Whitehead with the Kansas City Police Department said.

KCPD community interaction officers were able to connect both families to the Center for Conflict Resolution. After several talks with mediators, the families hesitantly agreed to meet face-to-face.

"I went in there hoping we’d be able to — and having an open mind — but not knowing what to expect because it had been so bitter for so long," Debbie said.

And soon, thanks to a grant from the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, more people will have access to this process.

"If we’re able to get them to the table, 99 percent of the time, they come up with a solution that works to meet everyone’s needs," Lantz-Simmons said.

Lantz-Simmons said too often, we're in the heat of the moment. We often react impulsively and that's when trouble hits.

"We are only feeling. We’re not thinking. The emotional brain triggers our fight-flight response. So in the midst of that, we can’t make choices," Lantz-Simmons said.

With the new grant initiative, the Center for Conflict Resolution plans to expand its outreach in the Historic Northeast. Working with community groups, it will work to train conflict mediators to make its programming more immediately accessible

"Through training, what we can do is recognize our emotion and the minute we name our emotion, we start thinking," Lantz-Simmons said.

New community networks will also make many conflict resolution services free and might just save lives. The Center for Conflict Resolution is hoping to eventually expand its community based training and services to coordinate with KCPD's six police stations.

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