(KUNM Airdate: 8/25/06)

"There is plenty to do, for each one of us, working on our own hearts, changing our own attitudes, in our own neighborhoods."
~ Dorothy Day, Founder, Catholic Workers Union

"Living in community is like living in a hall of mirrors, where everyone around you offers a reflection of how far you've come and how you have yet to go. While it offers unparalleled opportunities for personal growth, like old age, community is not for the feint of heart."
Laird Schaub - consultant on building sustainable communities

The series on peacemaking and nonviolent conflict resolution focuses this month on keeping peace in the neighborhood. One of our guests is mediator Stephanie Beninato who has mediated scores of neighborhood disputes - mostly about barking dogs she says. We also talk with members of the Alamosa community of Albuquerque who feel that developing a strong neighborhood association, building a community center and taking pride in their community have helped reduce crime and brought more peace to their neighborhoods.
This program is co-hosted by Paul Ingles and Carol Boss.

Click here to hear this program- Neighborhood Peacemaking

You may also find out more about the Peace Talks Radio series at

CD copies of this program are available. For more information, email or send a check made payable to GOOD RADIO SHOWS, INC. in the amount of $15.00. The price includes postage and handling. Mail your check to Good Radio Shows, PO BOX 35442, Albuquerque, NM 87176. Expect delivery in 2 to 3 weeks.

Transcription Services: Rogi Riverstone

Stephanie Beninato
Professional Mediator

HOST PAUL INGLES: What are the first steps toward a good, general strategy that seems to have some good results in a neighborhood conflict over barking dogs?

MEDIATOR STEPHANIE BENINATO (website: I would call each party. I would ask the two people what their point of view was about the situation. Dog owners tend to love their pets, of course, even though you might think they're not being totally responsible because they're leaving their dog out for hours, barking. Dog owners tend also not to hear their dogs barking. For people who don't have dogs, that noise is very irritating. I let them vent to me, tell me the situation. Then, I say, "Can you come in with a solution-oriented frame of mind: that you could come up with - not one solution, but, say, three solutions that will work, not only for you, but also for the other person?"


INGLES: The other thing that I imagine, too - tell me if this is true - is that a lot of dog barking problems are happening when the owner is away. The dog's in the back yard. The owner is out on a date; the owner's working. They don't really know how much the dog is barking when they are away. The dog is agitated, lonely, hungry, whatever. Then, they come home and the dog is, generally, quiet or happy, satisfied, fed. Does that happen a lot, too?

BENINATO: That has happened, yes, where people have gone out and have not realized how much their dog barks when they're not there. I've often asked people, if they've taped the dog barking, that they bring that to demonstrate to the owner what they're listening to.

INGLES: I like dogs. I've had dogs. Maybe I don't hear it as much as someone who doesn't have dogs. I've gotten used to it. My solution is earplugs, white noise machine. I live with it, rather than try to change what's going on with my neighbors.

BENINATO: That's one solution. However, some people get really frustrated with that because, first of all, they say, "I want to keep my windows open. I don't want to keep ear plugs in because I want to know what's happening right around my own house." Some people say, "Why should I go to the expense of getting a white noise machine? I don't even like listening to anything. I'd rather have quiet." There are studies that say that quiet is important to getting a really good sleep. So, for some people, those are unacceptable solutions.

INGLES: You've described bringing the two parties together and, particularly, the dog owner, to come to a meeting with a solutions-based frame of mind.

BENINATO: Actually, both people coming in with a solution-oriented frame of mind, because, if the person who's complaining just wants the owner to get rid of the dog, I don't think that's a very viable solution for most dog owners. I think that's why most dog owners, perhaps, react in a less-than neighborly way. What they're hearing is you don't like their dog and you want them to get rid of it. Or, they project onto you that you're unreasonable.

INGLES: What are some of the negotiations or changes in behavior that result from some mediation?

BENINATO: Some people have agreed to let the dog out at certain hours and, if the dog barks, fine. Or the dog barks for a certain number of minutes and, after that, the owner needs to respond. Sometimes, just moving the location of where the dog is kept will really help. Sound travels in odd ways; it bounces off building. By putting your dog, say, from the north side to the south side, it can often relieve the problem that you have with your neighbor.

INGLES: It seems to me, in all conflict resolution scenarios, a big part of it is empathy: to get both sides to recognize some of these factors like a wall that amplifies a dog bark that they might not have thought about - putting themselves in the space of the person who's being bothered, and vice versa.

BENINATO: Exactly. That's really important. That's one of the things that mediation does. It increases communication skills and empathy. You are really listening to what the other person says. By having the one person repeat what the other person has just said, not only do you know that they're really listening, but I think, it really forces them - in a way - to understand what that person says.

INGLES: What's the energy like at most of these mediations?

BENINATO: It can be really tense. In fact, most mediations are rather tense because people are there because they have a conflict. They don't know how it's going to resolve itself. Perhaps they have the impression that they're going to court and they're going to fight. They do get to present their points of view. However, people usually do really want to vent. I do what we call, "caucusing." I'll speak with one side privately; the other side sits, say, in another room. Then, the second party gets to speak with me, too. So, the venting can occur, but the wall doesn't go up between the two people who are trying to work out a solution.

INGLES: What is the success rate in this type of mediation? Is there follow up that you can track?

BENINATO: Yes, because, often, I'll tell people, if it's not working, if you don't think that the agreement that the parties came to is being followed, they can call me up and we'll do a follow up session. I've had some follow up sessions, but not a lot.

INGLES: If you were trying to talk with folks, and imagine a scenario where the neighbor could approach another neighbor and start working this out on their own without calling in a complaint and working out a mediation, what tips would you have?

BENINATO: You might try a phone call, but if you've been up all night and you're really upset, it's probably not the best time to do it. Although, you could just say, "I would like to talk to you about your dog." Leave your number, your name, identify where you live in relationship to the neighbor. If they never call you back, maybe you'd like to write them a very short letter saying, "I am being disturbed by your dog. I would like to talk to you about this so that we could work something out so that we can both live here, peacefully." Give your contact information and see if the neighbor responds to that.

INGLES: Before you are even exposed to annoyances that might bother you, it's important to get to know your neighbors. It seems rather simple, but, does that really help when things like this come up? You have a path that isn't blocked by fear or assumptions that you build in your head?

BENINATO: I think that is also a very good idea. Try to meet your neighbors, whether you see them walking down the street and can introduce yourself or whether you've just moved into the neighborhood and you make an effort to go to, say everybody surrounding you, and say, "Hey, I'm the new neighbor and I'd just like to introduce myself." You can open the door so they know who you are. The first impression is not of somebody who is coming because they're having a problem, but because they really want to get to know you and be part of the neighborhood.


According to our next guests, addressing conflict in our neighborhoods and making them more peaceful places requires patience, persistence, empathy, creative consensus building skills and a willingness to overcome our indifference about the place where we live. All these were lessons learned by residents of a neighborhood in Albuquerque, New Mexico who have started to turn around their community. Over a period of about 15 years, the Alamosa neighborhood has worked with the city's police and other departments to reduce crime, build facilities, spruce up its look, and instill a sense of pride. It's not a miracle turnaround by any means, but it's a good example of people taking an active role in reducing conflict and increasing peace. Carol Boss talked with some of the folks who are pulling it off, beginning with Albuquerque Police Captain who described a time not long ago when most of the Alamosa Neighborhood didn't trust the police.

CAROL BOSS: Do you want to talk a little about where you think the mistrust comes from?

CONRAD CANDELARIA, APD POLICE CAPTAIN: I think a lot of it came about because, when you look back into the seventies and eighties, you have to look at the type of policing that was, pretty much, inherent - not just in this city, but throughout the nation. Policing, in that era, was geared towards the more response-oriented. Essentially, you go, you take the call, you resolve it - whether it be temporarily or permanently made no difference, so long as you solved that particular incident. Then, you took your next call. So you never really had the opportunity to identify the source of the problem. In order to do that, you have to establish a partnership. It takes twelve, fifteen years to actually establish that. With that, we actually started to notice the changes that were taking place. First, the barrier was being diminished, between community and police department. Because we're sitting down together and identifying - not so much what the police department thought was the best way to solve the problem, but what the community thought was the best way to resolve a problem. And that's where the partnership starts to evolve, at that stage.

Captain Conrad Candelaria
Albuquerque Police Department

Jeanette Baca
President, Alamosa Neighborhood Assn.

BOSS: So, Jeanette Baca, President Alamosa Neighborhood Association, what did that look like, that disconnect?

JEANETTE BACA: Well, there was distrust, I think, on both sides. The police had, I believe, the stereotypical idea of what our community was. And our residents had never really had contact with the police, other than if something happened. There was no real communication.

So, how did that change? Representative Dan Silva, NM State House, did you want to make a comment?

REPRESENTATIVE DAN SILVA: Yeah, on that point, Captain Candelaria, and the people who work for him, also, are there - not only when there's problems. We have meetings, we have lunches, we have breakfasts -- whatever type of meeting, he's there. So, there's a tremendous trust which wasn't there, before. That's one of the things that's made a big difference.

CANDELARIA: I think a lot of it has to do with police departments, kinda operating under that umbrella of the "broken windows" theory. We talk about personalizing it, not just from the police aspect of it, but those that live in the community.

We try to educate one another that, if we see a problem, rather than just tolerating it, or being indifferent to it, they should actually take the steps to try to find a way to reslove it and prevent the problem - therefore, calling it the "broken window." That's what I would recommend to anyone. That's where the theory stems from: if you see a house that is delapidated, that's unattended, that's vacant, that's maybe a haven for criminal, nuisance activity, you take the steps to get those who are involved, and actually fix it, rather than being indifferent to it. Because what happens is, it starts to evolve. It starts to perpetuate. It's not just a problem with the house, it could be a problem in the neighborhood. It continues to engender from there.

Rep. Dan Silva
NM State House

Johnise Pena
Alamosa Teenager

What happens with this transformation is, no longer are those who live in the community willing to tolerate it: any type of criminal or nuisance activity. We have a relationship now where any one of the constituents I work with- they give me a call, they're shooting me an email, saying, "we have a problem at this location and I want us to look into it." "Transformation" is probably the best word I could use to describe it.

BOSS: Perhaps you could give folks who live in other communities tips for overcoming, let's say, the indifference they might be experiencing.

JEANETTE BACA: I would say, first and foremost, I think it's really important to form relationships with the police, your State Senator, your State Representative, your City Counselor, the Mayor's office. Because then, you have an "in" to different departments that you can call and say, "we have a problem here." I feel very comfortable, contacting Captain Candelaria, emailing him. I never had that comfortable feeling before. The important thing is to form relationships with people who can actually get things done.

CAROL BOSS: Thank you, Jeanette Baca. What about you, Representative Dan Silva?

DAN SILVA: It takes time to make changes. When someone asks me, "what changes have you seen?" it's hard to answer. I'm looking at a forty year period. I don't think changes are fast enough, either. But you have to be persistant. You have to work with people. You have to have good, friendly meetings to resolve issues like the police department and Captain Candelaria have been willing to do, and the Alamosa Association. Talk about the issues. We just work together.

CAROL BOSS: Building relationships, patience and persistance - what else, Captain Candelaria?

CANDELARIA: Of course, I would embrace all of what you're saying. But from my perspective, I'd add personalized policing: their problem is my problem. If I have the means to take care of it, I need to do everything possible so that we can strive toward that quality of life that I think all of us want.

BOSS: Johnise, do you have any tips for young people, who might be listening from other neighborhoods, about getting involved and working to make a better community?

JOHNISE PENA - ALAMOSA TEENAGER: It's very important for them to be involved. I know this from community clean ups: spending long, hot days, picking up trash. I see the difference, from when it's filthy to when it's clean. Now, I know it's better to just throw it in the trash can; it's not that hard. Different things people have taught me: it's very important.