Curbing Youth Violence: Doing What Works

Article excerpt

While overall crime rates across the nation have decreased, youth crime rates have taken a turn for the worst.

"Juvenile violence is still a huge problem," President Clinton solemnly declared during a recent symposium on youth violence and crime. "The number of juveniles arrested will more than double by 2010."

The Department of Justice sponsored this one-day symposium, in June called "Curbing Youth Violence: Communities Working Together," to help others learn more about what works to steer youth away from guns, drugs and gangs; stop cases of juvenile crime before they start; and enforce penalties on juvenile offenders that involve rehabilitation efforts.

While proposing more after-school activities, President Clinton noted that forty percent of juvenile crime occurs while school is out. He took this opportunity to push an Administration-back bill in Congress that is based on the City of Boston's program to reduce youth violence. Boston's "Operation Cease Fire" program included three key initiatives: suppression, intervention, and prevention. Created through a partnership with the district attorney's office, probation and parole officers, the state attorney's office, youth and community groups, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the anti-violence program targets "hot spots" of gang violence as well as repeat juvenile offenders.

"This is not rocket science, it's replication -- doing what works," Clinton emphasized.

The more than 25 panelists who participated all agreed that partnerships among law enforcement agencies, probation officers, courts, schools, community organizations, the private sector, and more are proven measures of effectiveness.

U.S. Attorney Veronica Coleman of Memphis addressed the role of public prosecutors in punishing juvenile offenders by answering a recurring question of "What can the federal government do?"

"The current Administration package does what the original one did," Coleman said. "Federal government prosecutors can add measure by going after the worst of the worse." However, proposed legislation helps state and local governments address youth crime by focusing on more resources such as partnerships with federal agencies. …