YEF Institute: Effective Strategies for Preventing Youth Violence

By Karpman, Michael | Nation's Cities Weekly, February 6, 2006 | Go to article overview

YEF Institute: Effective Strategies for Preventing Youth Violence


Karpman, Michael, Nation's Cities Weekly


Cities and towns can reduce crime and increase youth engagement by implementing five effective strategies isolated by NLC's Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (YEF Institute), according to institute consultant John Calhoun.

Calhoun, former Commissioner of the U.S. Administration on Children, Youth and Families, recently retired as founding president and CEO of the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), which he led for 21 years.

Testifying at a public roundtable of the Washington, D.C., City Council's Special Committee on the Prevention of Youth Violence in December of 2005, Calhoun outlined ways in which cities have achieved dramatic results in lowering incidences of juvenile delinquency.

"Single policy and single program innovations will make a dent in reengaging vulnerable youth, but only a total commitment from the entire city--parents, government, civic entities, community and faith based-organizations--will make a significant and enduring difference in the lives of potential victims, victimizers and frightened community members," said Calhoun.

"This type of comprehensive effort requires not just a couple of policies or programs, but a wide-scale campaign and a changed way of doing business," he said.

Ingredients for Success

Calhoun noted how gang prevention efforts in San Jose, Calif., and the "Reclaiming Our Youth" initiative in San Diego produced significant drops in crime, violence and commitments of youth to the juvenile justice system. San Diego reduced the Juvenile Hall population by one third and juvenile court activity by one half.

What are the keys to success in making cities safer for youth? NCPC's work with the U.S. Department of Justice to reduce crime in 23 cities offered some clues. According to Calhoun, three ingredients stand out as essential elements for progress:

* A city and community-wide task force chaired by the mayor and police chief;

* Development of specific, measurable commitments (e.g. instituting afterschool programs, or police opening precincts in public housing units); and

* Monthly meetings to ensure accountability, measure progress and maintain momentum.

Five Effective Strategies

Based on NCPC's efforts and case studies of eight cities conducted by the YEF Institute, Calhoun identified five proven strategies to reduce violence and increase youth engagement.

Frequent, intensive personal contact with the most troubled youth can help set limits while at the same time offering support and reducing isolation. The Boston Cease Fire project is one example in which community-oriented policing achieved results by establishing partnerships between police, probation officers and ministers, who patrolled city streets together and visited the homes of troubled youth.

"In some ways limit setting--law enforcement--is not hard," said Calhoun. "The provision of effective help is."

A second strategy involves applying a citywide scope with a focus on "hot spots" where crime, high school dropout rates and use of public assistance are high. …

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