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Troy L. Wheeler

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Strategy: Involving Youth in Violence Prevention

Strategy Youth should be involved in planning and carrying out strategies to prevent violence in their communities. They contribute . . .

Strategy

Youth should be involved in planning and carrying out strategies to prevent violence in their communities. They contribute a valuable perspective on the problem as they build skills that will help them make positive contributions to their neighborhoods.

Crime Problem Addressed

As indicated by OJJDP statistics, the risk of being a victim of violence has increased 17 percent for youth aged twelve to seventeen and 24 percent for young adults aged eighteen to twenty-four. In 1991 nearly 1.5 youth were victims of violent crime. OJJDP reports that juveniles were responsible for approximately one in five violent crimes. The potential for victimization of youth and perceptions that most violence is caused by youth have led many communities to mobilize youth to help solve one of society's most pressing problems.

Key Components

Youth who participate in projects to prevent crime and violence play many roles: they join task forces of planning coalitions, volunteer in community-based prevention projects, mediate conflicts in schools and the community, perform in prevention-focused programs for younger children, counsel peers, and organize neighborhood antidrug and anticrime events. Many successful programs involve at-risk and other teens. The element that unifies the diverse activities is openness to full participation by youth whose leadership, commitment, experience, and skills support the community's goals.

Key Partnerships

Partnerships in preventing youth violence should include youth at all levels of activity. Their role should be considered as vital as that of adults.

Potential Obstacles

The attitude of some adult policymakers and leaders that youth are the source of communities' violence problems is a difficult bias to overcome. Forums in which youth can present their views help raise awareness of the skills and experience that the community's youth have to offer. Training youth to advocate prevention increases their ability to have a long-term effect on policy and programs.

Signs of Success

Youth as Resources programs in over twenty communities in several states empower youth to address social issues in their neighborhoods. Concerned young people identify issues, develop strategies, and manage budgets. Community boards disperse funds to youth to implement projects to fight crime and violence. Youth participants have developed antidrug videos for their peers, built playgrounds, painted over graffiti, counseled their friends, and supported programs for elderly neighbors and crime victims. Supported by the NCPC, evaluations of the program reveal that it builds leadership and altruism among participants as it enables them to help prevent crime in their cities.

Applying the Strategy

Teens on Target is a peer education program established by Youth Alive in partnership with Oakland, California's Unified School District and Pediatric Spinal Injury Service. Formed after two high school students were shot by peers, the program trains high-risk students to advocate violence prevention by educating and mentoring their peers and younger children on gun violence, drugs, and family conflict. The youth arrange trips to local hospital emergency rooms to give their peers a first-hand look at violence's impact on victims.

Decatur, Georgia's Ujima project involves the community's youth in "Peace in the Streets' rallies, unit campaigns, antiviolence projects, and other activities that serve the community's interests.

The Indochinese Mutual Assistance Association in San Diego plans to train more than a hundred youth to serve as mentors and tutors. The community-based collaborative of ethnic and social service organizations provides culturally based violence-prevention and leadership training to Cambodian, Hmong, Lao, and Vietnamese youth in the city's southeastern neighborhoods.

From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups

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