Estes Park, Colorado, Less Than 50,000, Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership Project Summary

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1 Estes Park, Colorado, Less Than 50,000, Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership Project Summary The Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership exists to reduce crime and disorder by applying the principles of Restorative Justice. In doing so, the project seeks to improve victim services, reduce arrests, reduce repeat offending, and allow community members to be a more visible role in our justice process. It is a community-based program, designed to repair harms caused by crime and to create a balance of justice equitable to the victim, the offender, and the community. Nature of the Crime: crime is understood as an offense against human relationships, community safety and well-being, secondarily as an offense against the law or state. Offender Accountability: holds offender directly accountable to the actual harm done to the direct victims, others in the community, and the community as a whole; promoting responsibility to be taken in a face to face meeting, personalizing the victimization of others. Repair of Harm: attempts to make all harms right, allowing for victims to move past the event by providing voice and recognition. Balanced Participation: brings together in voluntary and constructive ways the victim, offender, and community for the purpose of reintegration. The criminal justice system holds coercive power for follow through and completion, without being the motivation for success. Capacity Building: provides opportunity for victims to move toward forgiveness and healing, offenders to develop empathy and ability to make better choices, communities to realize empowerment in solving their own problems; allowing the justice system to play a supportive, humanizing role. Encouragement of Innovation: less hampered by bureaucracy and legal constraints, it emphasizes new ways of thinking about justice and innovative methods and strategies to solving system problems. Partnerships for Action: seeks to build mutually beneficial partnerships among stakeholders in the justice process, community safety and well being. The Community is the Driving Force Behind the Process: those who are closest to the parties are in the best position to establish and monitor the process of justice, community members must be willing to take responsibility for creating a system of justice, which will work for its members. 1

2 Estes Park, Colorado, Less Than 50,000, Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership Program Description Introduction The Town of Estes Park, a summer mountain resort town, serves a year round population of 5,500 residents and a visiting population of 2.8 million tourists, the largest tourist population in Colorado. From , juvenile arrests drastically over-represented the population, representing 32% of all arrests made by the Estes Park Police Department but only 12% of the total base population. At our beautiful Riverside Plaza, a popular venue for tourists, our youth replaced acceptable socializing behavior with criminal behavior creating disorder and unrest. Teens painting obscenities on their chests parading around the Plaza challenging tourists, vandalizing parked vehicles, assaulting news media members, graffiti, breaking of a plate glass window of a merchant who had publicly worked with the police to stop the problems all resulting in a public outcry for police intervention. The Estes Park Police Department initiated a series of strategies to address the problem. The strategies resulted in increased arrests, strict enforcement of local ordinances, and zero tolerance for unwanted behavior. This strategy resulted in a reduction of crime and disorderly activity by 90% and an increase in juvenile arrests of 80%, however, juvenile crime was either unaffected in other areas of the community or it increased. Citizens felt that the enforcement was unfair and uneven. This activity placed the police department, and the justice system, at odds with many of the youth and families in town. The Chief of the Estes Park Police Department and other community youth advocates realized that this polarization of the community, and this level of crime, could not continue and an alternative solution had to be implemented. Restorative Justice was that solution, sought after to bring the community together, and by 2003, police calls for service in the downtown corridor dropped 92%. By 2005, juvenile arrests dropped 100% in the downtown corridor and criminal activity community-wide reduced by 94%. In 2004, a community survey was distributed and satisfaction with the police had risen to an all time high of 81%. Program Restorative Justice is about offenders, victims, and community. It is a grass roots program functioning with less than one full time staff member, a Board of Directors, and a team of community volunteers. The Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership (EVRJP) exists to reduce crime and disorder by applying six principles of Restorative Justice: 1) repair of harm to victims, offenders, and community, 2) reconciliation and repair of relationships, 3) reintegration into the community, 4) responsibility taken by all individuals for their part in the incident, 5) restitution to the victims, 6) respect given and received by all. This mission is accomplished through a very unique structure that embodies the spirit of community and police partnership. The Executive Director of the organization is a Town of Estes Park employee who sits on the Command Staff for the Estes Park Police Department and reports to the Chief of Police as the Community Service Manager. That manager is then on loan (at a rate of.25 FTE) to the EVRJP, 501c3, Board of Directors as their Executive Director to administer the non-profit organization. In addition, there is a.5 time Case Manager for the program. The Case Manager salary is paid in full through grants and donations to the 501c3, EVRJP, though salary dollars are then given to the Town for distribution. The Executive Director is paid by Town of Estes Park general fund 2

3 dollars, donated to EVRJP. The Estes Park Municipal Court now issues a $5 surcharge on all summonses written that also go to fund the program. The purpose of the program is to reduce juvenile recidivism and to build community. The primary process utilized is Community Group Conferences. Target Community The primary offender target population is youth in the sixth to twelfth grades, or ages ten to eighteen years, up to age 21 in drug and alcohol cases. The program addresses juvenile status offenses, non-violent petty offenses, misdemeanor, and felony offenses. Built into the process is the parent-child relationship as EVRJP requires parents to attend all meetings. Parents receive community feedback and often are encouraged to complete assigned contract items with their child in an attempt to build on their relationship. Victims of crime are given the opportunity for their voice to be heard, the opportunity to ask questions of those who have offended them, and are allowed to play a central role in deciding how to repair the harm caused by the crime, including restitution. Currently, restitution has been paid in 100% of the cases in which it was ordered. Affected community members actively participate with Restorative Justice once they have experienced the process and new community volunteers are constantly recruited. About thirty-five percent of offenders are Spanish-speaking as are some victims and community members. EVRJP has three trained bi-lingual (Spanish and English) facilitators to serve this section of our community. Objectives The Estes Valley Restorative Justice Program identified five objectives: 1) Decrease Crime and Disorder; 2) Decrease Arrests; 3) Decrease Repeat Offending; 4) Develop and Maintain Community-wide Partnerships to Address Crime Issues through Problem Solving; and 5) Improve Business Opportunities in Downtown Corridor. Strategy In January of 2002, the Estes Valley Community Services Coalition (a non-profit 501 C3), whose members represent private and public sector agencies, the Colorado Regional Community Policing Institute and the Estes Park Police Department intensified efforts to address juvenile crime and disorder issues. They hosted a community workshop bringing together the business community, youth community, adult community, local government, and chamber of commerce. From that workshop a sub-committee was formed, the Estes Valley Restorative Justice Task Force. This task force invited other entities into their group and asked them to attend seminars and presentations held around the state on restorative concepts and processes. Many began to look into a similar project in Bend, Oregon and were impressed with the success that community group conferences were having on the juvenile crime issues in that city. The Police Chief was approached and joined the task force, along with the Detective Sergeant. The Municipal Court Judge was also approached and was willing to learn more about the process as a potential diversion opportunity. The task force wrote a federal grant, the Town agreed to administer payroll and provide space, and a part-time director was hired in November, The Director brought experience in holding juveniles accountable from a treatment perspective and began to apply this, along with restorative principles, as a community-wide approach to juvenile crime and disorder. 3

4 EVJRP adopted a Community Group Conference Model that accepts referrals directly from the Estes Park Municipal Court, the Estes Park Police Department, and the Larimer County District Attorney s Office. The primary and preferred source of referrals is direct from the police. If this alternative is used then facilitators who coordinate the conference are able to meet with offenders within two to five days after the incident, while it is fresh in the minds of the parties involved and a conference is scheduled within 30 days. If a case is referred to court, it is often one to two months before anyone meets with the juvenile or discusses the incident; allowing for emotional distance and providing overall less impact by desensitizing the event. Once officers refer a case, they are contacted by the Case Manager for EVRJP and they are encouraged to give their insight to who else might be involved or who would be important participants in a conference. The officer is then contacted with the conference date and time and is advised of the kinds of questions they will be asked to share once in the conference: How were you affected professionally by this incident ; How were you affected personally? All participants are asked these types of questions in the process as harm is identified but the officer s participation seems to humanize the profession for juveniles and often the items and personal stories shared lead to an improved relationship that prevents the juvenile from making the crime he/she committed about a general defiance of authority. Rather than feeding that defiance and validating that everyone is against them, they are forced to listen to why the police responded the way they did and understand that they are a human being with stories, emotions, and a childhood of their own. Officers also participate in the contract phase of the process which sometimes allows for the relationships to build between authority and offender, particularly if the juvenile agrees to assist with a project with the officer in some way. For example, a group of skateboarders recently stole some signs along the riverwalk. The conference participants recognized that they did owe the community and they were surprised at the large number of hours the police donated to this event reasoning primarily being that this was in the downtown corridor and they did not want to see this sort of behavior initiated again. It was decided through consensus that the offenders, as one of the five items on their contract, would assist the officers with the planning and preparation (and operation on that day) of the annual safety fair. This year, it had been suggested that a professional skating exposition be included, so they worked alongside, making phone calls, creating fliers, and assisting with advertisement of the event. They are also required to attend, bring their friends, and then work the event greeting people, offering information, serving food, and then assisting with clean up afterward. These juveniles have been crime free for over eight months as a result of this community connection and replacing the antisocial behavior with positive behavior while still utilizing their interests and assets. In addition, at least one former offender has reported drug deals at the high school to the School Resource Officer. Without trusts and a personal relationship, this would not have occurred. A formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Police Department and the District Attorney s Office allows officers to refer cases directly to EVRJP, bypassing the court system. This MOU provides parameters around this new ability that primarily ensures that the District Attorney s Office is told of any felony charges being diverted and that any crimes of a sexual nature are forwarded to their office rather than being directly referred to EVRJP. This stamp of approval has lent even more credibility to the organization. These direct referrals allow the program to be in contact with the offender and victim within three days of the incident. The 4

5 courts (municipal and district) are able to make referrals as well. This is useful as the primary requirement for referral is that the offender take responsibility for his/her actions in other words, they must at least say, I did it, thought being remorseful is not necessary. That is, rather, a desired outcome as it reflects some level of empathy for those affected. Sometimes, offenders are unable to do this immediately with an officer, or a parent does not allow it. Given time, however, and after appearing in court, some are then able and can be diverted at that time. The process is then the same (though initiated later). Once juveniles are referred to EVRJP, the case is reviewed by staff and assigned to a volunteer team of two facilitators who schedule a pre-conference meeting, first with the offender. These facilitators are given the police report and any other information deemed necessary. They then meet with the agenda of getting the offender s story and ascertaining that they take some level of responsibility. This is the single largest differentiation from what would occur in the traditional system no lawyers and they must say that they did it. In fact, they are now required to write out what they take responsibility for doing. This dynamic changes the rest of the dialogue. The offender is asked questions like, What were you thinking at the time? ; What did you imagine/want would come out of this? ; Who do you think was affected? ; and many other open-ended questions. An assets survey is given to determine what is going well in the offender s life as well as to identify areas that he/she may be struggling in: family, social, academic, financial, etc. This information is shared with the conference for the formation of the contract. Facilitators also use this opportunity to identify who else should be at the conference by asking who the offender would like support from and if they feel there are people who should be invited. As these are primarily juveniles or very young adults (EVRJP works with anyone in high school or anyone up to age 21 for drugs and alcohol), parents are also present for these meetings. Facilitators then ask parents the same types of questions to get their story and to identify how they are affected. Often, community members are asked to attend the conference in hopes that they can make connections with parents and provide a system of support and resources. It is often one of the outcomes. The parents also are held accountable by the community for their methods of supervision, care, etc. at the conference though facilitators make sure that the offenders are the ones held accountable for choosing to commit a crime, regardless of circumstances, though contract items may be geared toward changing circumstances to decrease the likelihood that such a decision will be made again. A pre-conference meeting is also held with the victims of the crime. They are asked to share their story and they are asked how they were affected. They are encouraged to participate so that they are able to share this for their own healing and also to decrease the possibility that the same person will do it to them again or to someone else. They are sometimes reluctant, but are encouraged that restitution is collected 100% of the time in this process vs. about 50% or less through the traditional system. This seems a primary motivator initially but is rarely if ever referred to in the post-conference questionnaire. It seems that once they participate, the victims of crime are rewarded by the humanization of the event and understanding if/why they were targeted. The conference (a face to face meeting of victim, offender, and community members) is then planned and may involve many types of participants: victim and offender support, coaches, 5

6 teachers, school administration, arresting officer, substance abuse or other counselor, Partners (mentoring representative), potential tutor, and affected and non-affected community. It is crucial to have participants who are less involved as they are able to present a larger picture of overall community affect when a crime is committed. The offender(s) is asked to share his/her story and then, once the group feels that they understand the story, the victim is asked to share his/hers, focusing on the harm resulting from the crime. Then everyone else is asked to identify how they (and their families) were affected and also how the community at large is affected. Once this part of the process is complete, the assets survey, given to the offender in the preconference meeting, is shared. The primary purpose of the Assets Survey, administered by the facilitators, is to establish the inherent protective factors that exist for each juvenile within the family, school, peer group, and community. Included are questions that identify the offender s strengths in social and interpersonal skills, self-esteem, personal responsibility, motivation, coping strategies and problem-solving skills. Facilitators also use this opportunity to ask the offender to consider other individuals who should be invited to provide support. Offender parent(s) are integral to this process as well; the facilitators use open questions to get the parent(s) story and how they were affected by the behavior. Unaffected community members are asked to attend the conference to provide support and resources for the offender and offender parent(s). While parents are often held accountable for their methods of supervision, care, and nurturance of their child, facilitators make sure that the offenders, regardless of the circumstances, are held accountable for choosing to commit the crime. The conference then enters the agreement phase where the focus is on identifying the repair needed to correct the harm that the group had listed. The contract consists of a maximum of five items and two are always the same: completing the post-conference questionnaire prior to leaving and attending an Impact of Crime class taught by the Executive Director of EVRJP with the Executive Director of the Estes Valley Victim Advocates program. The other items are all created through a process involving group consensus. The requirements are that they all be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. In addition, the repair must be directly tied to the harm committed so if damage was done to a particular business in the downtown corridor, working at the library would not be acceptable. Rather, the repair would need to take place in the same neighborhood where the damage was done. If the business owner did not want the offender on their property (rarely the case by the end of the conference) then alternatives in that area would be suggested. This is done so that there is a direct correlation in the mind of the juvenile. If the crime is graffiti then the offender would be required to clean graffiti he/she did and if that was not possible then in the same area of town. A date is agreed upon for the offender to turn in proof of contract completion and then the group is brought back together for the offender to share what he/she did and to answer any questions that the conference participants have at that time in a postconference meeting. The purpose of the post-conference is to bring the same community group conference participants together in order for the offender to share accomplishments, respond to questions from conference participants, and reflect on any changes in their decision making style. Facilitators encourage a discussion with participants and offender that moves along a continuum of objective, factual questions to interpretive and decisional. Stimulus questions include: What are some of the things you did while completing your contract? What were the 6

7 high points (or low points)? At what point did you feel most connected to the incident or offense? As a result of this experience, what might you do differently in the future? Offenders are also asked questions designed to determine which risk factors-substance abuse, poor refusal skills, truancy, suspension, and low academic achievement-were ameliorated and which of the many protective factors-positive temperament, problem solving skills, bonding with family and neighborhood and positive peer group activities-were assimilated. If the offender completes the contract items by the agreed upon due date, there is no criminal entry on their record. If the offender fails to complete any of their contract items the case is referred back to the courts. A 2007 case example involved skateboarders stealing signs in Riverside Plaza; this case serves to clarify the benefits for offenders of EVRJP participation. The conference participants recognized the harm to the community and the number of police hours required to close the case. Through conference consensus making, the offenders repaired harms by assisting officers from the Estes Park Police Department with planning and preparation of the annual Safety Fair. The officers and offenders, working side by side, decided that a professional skating exposition would be a valuable addition to the fair. The offenders repaired harms by making phone calls, creating fliers, and assisting with the advertisement of the event. The day of the event, they served as greeters to their friends, classmates, parents, and community members. In addition, they provided information, served food, and assisted with cleanup. These offenders have been crime free for over two years replacing their previous antisocial behavior and low community attachment with positive behaviors and good decision-making skills by utilizing their own strengths and attributes identified in the Assets Survey and incorporated into the conference. Due to the humanizing nature of this process for victims, offenders and community members, nearly 52% of conference participants volunteer to attend future conferences involving new cases. These participants share their pro-social experiences with offenders anticipating a more traditional juvenile justice process. As a result, many protective factors shielding juveniles from delinquency and substance abuses are enhanced. Within the Estes Valley the impact has been substantial: parents are organizing discussions around how restorative principles might be used in the school setting to deal with behavioral issues prior to their escalation into criminal behavior. Roles of Partners The EVRJP Board of Directors incorporates the following community members: Larimer County Health and Human Services, Estes Park Partners, Park R3 School District, Parents and Community for Kids, Estes Community Services Coalition, Estes Valley Interfaith Council, Estes Valley Parks and Recreation Teen Center, Estes Park Municipal Court, YMCA of the Rockies, Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Businesses, Estes Valley Multi-Cultural Connections, Estes Valley Victims Advocates, Estes Park Learning Place, and Estes Park Police Department. EVRJP, the non-profit entity, is charged with overall direction and development for the program, responsible for entering into contracts with other entities on behalf of the organization, provides evaluation for staff, creates policy, supervises the overall case management and processes utilized, and is responsible for fiscal management for the agency. 7

8 The Police Department provides daily supervision, office space, and payroll for staff. They are responsible for the majority of the referrals and provide support to the organization. These duties and division of responsibility are made clear in a contract between the two organizations that was finalized in The philosophy of the partnership is clear it is a joint effort between community and police to better manage juvenile crime. It is not a prevention program meaning that first time offenders are not greatly reduced in number by these efforts, but it has dramatically impacted recidivism with less than 5% of the juveniles committing the same crime in 2005 and less than 15% committing another crime at all. More recent data is not possible as it is monitored for 18 months EVRJP is very clear that it is not a provider of services other than its accountability process. Rather, it serves as an empowerment opportunity to allow the community to handle its own problems. As a result, additional services are necessary for contract formation and completion and to deter crime. This is possible due the aforementioned partners who make up the partnership as well as other human service organizations in the community. Counseling services are provided by Estes Valley Victim Advocates if the offender(s) suffers from victimization; allowing the counselor to see them at no cost. Tutoring is contracted through the Estes Park Learning Place. Partners Mentoring Youth match offenders with an adult mentor. Various service clubs including Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Woman s Club, the Town of Estes Park, Park R- 3 School District, the police department and others open their community events to create an opportunity of service for offenders to repair harm to the community. Larimer Center for Mental Health makes its counseling services available to clients and their families, utilizing a sliding scale for payment. The motto of the Estes Park Police Department is: Community and Police in Partnership. This theme echoes throughout with the vision statement: All members of the Estes Park Police Department must strive to achieve Excellence in Policing through implementing and practicing the tenants of Community Policing within our tourist based policing environment adopting problem solving practices to address policing issues allowing innovative problem solving actions to be initiated by department employee encouraging and cultivating community wide partnerships within every facet of our work environment only then can we make Estes Park a safe place for all who live, work, and recreate. Based on these facts, it became a viable option to explore the suggestion of the then community task force who was exploring Restorative Justice as an alternative for dealing with juvenile crime. Achievements In the last six years, the program has received over 185 cases. EVRJP and the Estes Park Police Department have positively impacted youth and the community with an 89% completion rate and an 82% non re-offend rate, compared to the national average of 42% for the traditional system. The criminalization of juvenile behavior has been reduced by over 50%. All participants are asked to fill out a survey at the end of the conference and the results have consistently showed, the last five years, that victims and community members are 98% satisfied or very satisfied with the services provided. 8

9 Estes Park, being a mountain resort community, is unlike other more urban areas in that it does not take an enormous amount of crime or even high numbers (compared to urban areas or nontourist areas) for it to become a huge quality of life issue for residents in tourists. Even a slight dip in numbers of visitors brought on by a few bad experiences shared on-line can drastically affect the economic stability of the community. That is why the juvenile crime issues in the downtown corridor required immediate attention and led to this police-community partnership. Since its implementation, there has been an increase of 2.6% in the number of businesses operating in the downtown corridor since Complaints in this area of the community now center around parking and pedestrian (tourist) traffic as the crowds of people visiting the community and shopping and eating in the downtown corridor have increased. There have been no complaints of unwanted juvenile behavior in this area, with the exception of an occasional complaint regarding the skate shop. Sales tax has increased $1.1 million in the same time frame as compared to an $800,000 increase for 1998 through A community meeting was hosted for the merchants and their employees in October, 2007 and again in May, These issues did not even come up in the discussion as the new expectations of these merchants is simply that this problem has been taken care of and they are now able to focus on betterment of their own businesses. In casual conversation after the meeting, some expressed their appreciation of the restorative justice process and stated that they had participated. Some stated that they feel it has effectively dealt with shoplifting issues, particularly with local juveniles. They would like to see the same tactics utilized for the visiting population as they feel those offenders should have to come back to the community to repair the damage they do when they are visiting. As a result of establishing restorative justice in Estes Park, the following sidebars were achieved as well: 1) Creation of the Estes Valley Drug and Alcohol Task Force for youth (DUI education and prevention program); 2) Purchasing and administering the first Estes Park School Districtwide At-Risk Youth Survey ; 3) Presenting to the Texas Juvenile Justice Probation Commission Conference; 4) Presenting to the International Institute for Restorative Practices Conference in Pennsylvania (by the Police Chief and Restorative Justice Director); 5) Collaboration of shared program design and evaluation with various Restorative Justice Entities in Minnesota (Twin Cities area); 6) Presenting to Colorado Victim Advocates State Annual Conference (by the Police Chief and Restorative Justice Director); 7) Co-hosting the International Restorative Justice Conference in Estes Park; 7) Training for 22 students and staff at Eagle Rock School (a Honda Corporation philanthropic entity) for school-wide Restorative Discipline adoption; 8) Teaching Restorative discipline classes at Estes Park Middle School; 9) Representing Estes Park on the Senate Bill 94 fund expenditures committee (a state appointed function); 10) Participating as a board member for Larimer County Community Corrections; 11) Creating a Parole Re-entry Program (Community Circles) establishing accountability and support systems for parolees re-entering the community; 12) Holding one of the two practitioners seats for the Restorative Justice Council designed to support development of Restorative Justice programs at the state level: serving as a central repository for information, assisting in the development and provision of related education and training and providing technical assistance to entities engaged in or wishing to develop restorative justice programs. This program is one that can be duplicated in other communities and the Chief, Board President, and Executive Director have been invited and have traveled to three other states: Texas, 9

10 Minnesota, and Pennsylvania; as well as in Toronto, Canada, to share their success and their process. In addition, they have presented at least annually around the state of Colorado so that others can understand what they are doing and how they are working together. In May, 2008, a state practitioners meeting was held in Estes Park where all of the stakeholders in Estes Park were represented on a panel that answered questions for the practitioners around How to Attract Stakeholders Giving You the Cold Shoulder. The key to success seems to be that stakeholders were invited in from the beginning and were able to mold and shape the non-profit that now does the work and the police relationship was built in through the physical location of the program. Initially, officers were encouraged by the Chief to refer cases but this encouragement has not been in place for at least two years as it is now a part of the culture of the department and the officers have fully bought in to the success of the program. Restorative Justice programs across the state are working with the State Council in order to compare and produce statistics that will enable a representation of how effective this process is state-wide, though they are all a little different in design and detailed purpose. Programs in Longmont and Fort Collins, Colorado, are both showing the same types of results as EVRJP. It is suspected that if it is implemented in a similar fashion that other communities can do the same. This program was presented to the National League of Cities at the 2005 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, during the Small Cities Roundtable Discussion. As a result, several communities did follow up with questions about how to initiate the program and to find out more about the philosophy and design. Conclusion Instead of ignoring or simply arresting and charging juvenile trouble-makers through the traditional juvenile justice system, the Estes Park Police Department, the Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership and the community acknowledged the problem and came together to develop a restorative process for crime in the community. Participation by those who have a direct stake in an offense has resulted in a collaborative process with consensual outcomes directly benefiting offenders, victims, and the community. Rather than a unilateral resolution to juvenile offenses through a court process, the Estes Valley community and victims of juvenile offenses have partnered and become engaged in a process that defines strategies for the offenders to repair the harm. Broadly based, restorative justice alternatives empower the offender to take responsibility for their delinquency while reconciling their relationship with the victim and the community. This process ensures that Estes Valley youth, the community, and tourists benefit from a safe environment. 10

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