Youth and gang violence is not inevitable. Research and experience demonstrate that when communities engage in multi-disciplinary partnerships and implement balanced, data-driven approaches, youth and gang violence decreases while desirable youth outcomes improve. Information on data and evidence-driven programs and processes is available at http://www.crimesolutions.gov/.
Because youth and gang violence are tied to the quality of life and economic health of a community, localities are more likely to be successful when they implement violence prevention strategies through multi-disciplinary partnerships. Effectively addressing youth violence and crime requires coordination by diverse partners including law enforcement, education, labor, social services, public health, businesses, philanthropic organizations, and faith- and community-based organizations, along with parents and youth themselves.
Law enforcement agencies recognize that they alone cannot be responsible for solving our communities’ youth violence problems. Arresting our way out of these problems is neither possible nor cost effective, and is unlikely to garner widespread community support. The Forum promotes the development and implementation of locally tailored approaches that balance prevention, intervention, enforcement and reentry. These strategies should include prevention efforts spanning from early childhood into young adulthood, such as youth development, family support, school and community mentoring, and school-based and out-of-school recreational activities. Such strategies should also include “relational” intervention programs that engage with high‐risk and gang‐involved youth, as well as reentry programs that plan for returning youthful offenders prior to their release. Such strategies should coordinate closely with law enforcement efforts that focus on the most serious, violent, and chronic youthful offenders and crime “hot spots.”
Addressing youth and gang violence in any community is a collective responsibility that requires collaborative effort. Collaboration can be enhanced by embracing principles of distributed intelligence, the idea that many perspectives are better than one, and by sharing structured data—from databases, case management systems, etc.—in a deliberate, effective, grounded, and ethical manner. Successful sharing of knowledge and data requires the sharing of information and data after a thorough assessment of local risk and protective factors. Thus, to be truly comprehensive, a community’s strategy for data sharing should strive to be inclusive of all stakeholder agencies and integrate a wide-range of data from a variety of sources including, but not limited to, law enforcement, education, public health, child protection/welfare, labor, and housing.
The Importance of Comprehensive Planning
Without planning, there is no means of coordinating action among multiple stakeholders over time. Before joining the Forum, participating localities pledged to develop or enhance comprehensive, local plans to prevent youth and gang violence in their jurisdictions, using the multi-disciplinary partnerships, balanced approaches, and data-driven strategies described above. The Forum engages with communities during this process, helping them to strengthen local partnerships, improve coordination, and increase adherence to data driven practices, programs, and policies. The Forum also provides access to technical assistance from experts across multiple federal agencies and, perhaps even more importantly, connects communities with each other to share information about successful local models.
Through its support of the principles above, the Forum helps communities increase their capacity to access and utilize resources to more effectively address local youth violence issues over the medium and long term. Youth and gang violence cannot always be addressed quickly; instead, the Forum’s comprehensive strategy lays the foundation for a sustainable approach by a community that, over time, can result in lower rates of youth and gang violence and higher rates of safety, health, and economic prosperity. For more information, see the Forum Logic Model.