Strategy: Reinforce Community Standards Against Violence
Strategy Organized violence prevention and awareness campaigns reinforce community standards of nonviolence and help mobilize residents to act to . . .
Organized violence prevention and awareness campaigns reinforce community standards of nonviolence and help mobilize residents to act to prevent violence in the community.
Crime Problem Addressed
Violent juvenile crime has increased in recent years. Juvenile arrests for murder increased by 51 percent between 1988 and 1992. In 1992, 129,600 juveniles were arrested for murder, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. Many psychologists believe--and some studies have supported the theory--that seeing violence or daily depictions of violence desensitizes both adolescents and adults to violence, leaving them more likely to judge such behavior as "normal." This strategy attempts to address the community environment by promoting nonviolence as the community standard for juveniles and adults.
The first component of this strategy is establishing the goal to reduce exposure to violence, acceptance of violence, and use of violence in the daily activities of youth and adults. One facet of the strategy to achieve that goal is to reduce the violence youth see in their entertainment and activities. Also, young people must be taught conflict resolution and cooperation skills. Other components of success should include the following:
- a coalition comprised of representatives from local government programs, the school systems, faith communities, youth groups, the media, and business, civic, social, and service clubs
- educational materials to increase awareness and guide action
- public activities to mobilize interest and participation in violence-free activities.
Key partnerships should involve community groups concerned about violence in cooperation with local faith institutions, schools, and libraries. The coalition should convey nonviolence messages to the community and develop positive activities for youth. In addition to raising awareness and providing education, the partners should provide facilities and support for activities. Businesses and merchant associations can be enlisted to help fund educational campaigns and community activities. Media partners can review their patterns of news coverage and attempt to balance violence and crime-related stories with positive stories about the community, particularly during hours when young people are among likely viewers.
Maintaining volunteer participation in a long-term community antiviolence campaign can prove difficult. The impact of antiviolence campaigns will not surface immediately, so organizers should prepare to continue to schedule events, publicize the campaign, lobby local agencies for positive nonviolent activities for youth, and advocate to the media for nonviolent entertainment and news.
Signs of Success
Implementation of this strategy in Minnesota emerged in one community from a conversation between two crime prevention officers in Minnesota in 1991. They wanted to do something to try to reduce the kind of violence in several highly publicized violent crimes in the state. Thinking about all the violence in public entertainment, they wished that they could just take the knob in hand and "turn it off." From there, a partnership of forty-five organizations initiated a statewide campaign to "Turn Off the Violence." One preschool teacher reported that since celebrating their Turn Off the Violence Day, children who witness fighting are heard saying "turn off the violence."
Volunteer educators compiled a Teacher's Education Idea Guide, a curriculum for use in grades from kindergarten through high school, with lesson plans on conflict resolution and anger control. Reproducible brochures, a quarterly newsletter, and a Community Action Guide document the necessity of a campaign in every community to Turn Off the Violence. A "Turn Off the Violence Day" is celebrated in Minnesota every October--Crime Prevention Month. The success and the spirit of the campaign has been replicated in communities across the United States.
Applying the Strategy
In 1992 in San Antonio, Texas, a grassroots crime prevention planning team collaborated with local government officials to outline the need for increased public education and awareness about gang violence. Seeking to reinforce the community's values against violence, local media executives and residents developed their own gang prevention public service advertisements featuring local community and government leaders and youth. In addition, area ministers promoted the coalition's crime prevention action plan through a week-long commitment to sermons with antiviolence themes. Community involvement in implementing the plan and promoting nonviolent activity for youth continues.