Banner: Violence Prevention in partnership with the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention

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Background Approach to Reducing Violence

The Necessity of a Long-Term and Comprehensive Approach to Reducing Violent Crime

The formal and more mechanistic definition of what comprises a “comprehensive strategy” includes blending prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry (work with offenders returning from prison or residential placement) into an overall action plan advocated for and driven by city leaders. What “comprehensive” really means is that little in a community will change unless all key governmental and civic entities such as schools, law enforcement, public health, and the faith community commit to a wide variety of specific actions.

When families fray, schools fail to educate, and the economy cannot produce jobs, crime often rises. Typically, society turns to law enforcement to help “hold things together,” to help keep the social fabric from deteriorating further. This is both short-sighted and wrong, for it places an unfair and impossible burden on local public resources, and fails to hold the rest of us accountable. Violence creates individual victims. Violence also creates an unseen, more difficult to quantify victim: the community. Violence results in people too frightened to shop, kids worried about assault on their way to school, and people who cannot use parks. Fear breeds isolation and inhibits communities from developing appropriately.

Society’s response to the grim wake left by crime is often as dysfunctional as the fragmentation caused by crime—a mentoring program here, an afterschool program there, a targeted law-enforcement sweep here, a job training program there. We usually do this instead of developing a comprehensive response that pulls in and harnesses the energies of all key community sectors, who will direct their efforts to stop crime and violence and help communities create an environment that does not produce crime. Comprehensive strategies take a great deal of time and effort: while some interventions within a comprehensive approach will produce immediate results, comprehensive planning and action that changes how a locality does business requires a long-term commitment to achieve lasting results. For example, investing in street interventions tends to yield immediate, though short-term, results. Investing in upstream prevention strategies, like early childhood education, can take up to a decade to yield tangible benefits.