Strategy Community-based programs teach youth violence control and problem solving, thus preventing juvenile delinquency by providing critical decision-making and…
Community-based programs teach youth violence control and problem solving, thus preventing juvenile delinquency by providing critical decision-making and life skills.
Crime Problem Addressed
One-half million school-age children reported in a recent study that they spend at least part of their day concerned about violence. This strategy teaches children to reject violent responses to conflict by reinforcing positive and nonviolent means for resolving disputes. This strategy can help prevent drug abuse, gang violence, sexual harassment, and other problems of violence and crime. It empowers youth with the critical thinking and decision-making skills necessary to avoid the temptation of negative influences in their community.
The key components of this strategy include the following:
- recognition by community institutions that violence is a learned behavior and that youth need specific skills to combat its influence in their lives
- commitment from a community organization (church, youth group, recreation program) to promote violence prevention and positive decision-making and
- communication skills among the children involved in activities it sponsors
- activities to encourage youth and their families to use violence prevention and communication skills in their home and community environment
- support for these activities, from local government-sponsored youth programs, area businesses, and the media.
The central partnership in this strategy exists between the children and those who are helping them learn the violence prevention and communication skills. The community-based volunteer serves as a role model for the youth. Volunteers must also work in partnership with program staff and parents to ensure that the lessons of the program are reinforced at home and throughout the community. Area mental health professionals, counselors, religious leaders, and other community resources are valuable partners in providing training and counseling to adult volunteers and youth participants. Local community foundations and civic or service organizations can be valuable funding partners.
The primary challenge is getting local community groups to include youth social skill development as a focus of their work. Overburdened with providing other needed services to the community, community groups and city agencies may not want to take on such a program. Programs run through religious institutions and service-oriented organizations can operate the programs with volunteers if adequate training is available.
Signs of Success
In 1987, a Detroit group of parents of slain children united to go beyond mourning to work toward positive alternatives to violence throughout the community. They founded the nonprofit organization, Save Our Sons And Daughters (SOSAD). SOSAD offers crisis intervention, counseling, training in violence prevention, multicultural conflict resolution, gang redirection, and bereavement support. This grassroots, community-based effort to teach peace and peacemaking skills has become a model for other communities. SOSAD expanded its positive impact by developing curricula for training other agencies, organizations, school personnel, and community members in its problem-solving and crime-preventing techniques. With this active intervention and that of others, the number of children shot or killed in Detroit has declined each year since 1987.
Applying the Strategy
The August 1994 Crime Prevention Action Plan developed by the Greater San Antonio Crime Prevention Commission reports that community-based conflict resolution programs are effective in teaching young people non-aggressive methods for coping with conflict and resolving disputes. Accordingly, it has developed a city-funded conflict resolution program to serve neighborhoods, through the city Health Department. The program focuses on alternatives to violence, gang prevention, and aggression control, and it emphasizes positive behaviors.
In 1987, a small theater company formed in Minnesota with a focus on children and violence, seeking to provide alternatives through positive interaction and problem-solving. This grassroots program turns kids away from violence and toward positive interaction with family, peers, and the community. By 1989, the Climb Theatre group had brought its strategy of dramatic presentations (puppet shows, role plays) to over 60,000 children throughout the state. Parents report that children exposed to the interactive presentations used the techniques displayed to “cool down” and to help others to cool down, to talk about their problems, and to avoid fighting. The program offers services to thousands of children each year.
From 350 Tested Strategies to Prevent Crime: A Resource for Municipal Agencies and Community Groups