Youth Violence Interventions
Community level programs
enjoy widespread support, but most have not produced consistent
results when subjected to careful program evaluation.
characteristics can exert a profound influence on rates of crime,
violence and juvenile delinquency (Sampson 1985). Several studies suggest that rates of
crime and violence are directly related to levels of poverty,
unemployment, and social disorganization in the neighborhood.
Graffiti, vandalism, public drinking and prostitution signal a
loss of neighborhood control that may result in an increase in
crime (Skogan 1991). Criminals assume that neighbors who are
indifferent to their surroundings will be unlikely to confront
strangers, intervene in a crime or call the police. Unsafe
neighborhoods are characterized by anonymity, weak control of
public space, limited participation in local organizations, and
groups of unsupervised youth (Sampson 1985).
Density of housing and
population mobility are important factors in explaining
neighborhood rates of violent crime (Lacayo
population turnover impairs a neighborhood's ability to control
juvenile delinquency (Block 1979). Poor neighborhoods with high
rates of population mobility often have substantially higher
rates of violent crime (Block 1979, Sampson 1985, Sampson 1995); the same effect is not noted in more
affluent areas (Smith 1988). Large, multi-unit housing
complexes increase anonymity and decrease the likelihood that
neighbors will look out for each other (Roncek
1981). A large
percentage of apartments in multi-unit housing has been linked to
high rates of crime in Cleveland and San Diego (Sampson 1995).
Safe communities (in
contrast) are characterized by strong, locally based social
networks, stable populations, neighborhood control of public
spaces, and shared supervision of neighborhood youth. To
capitalize on these characteristics, community-level
interventions seek to prevent or reduce violence by modifying the
neighborhoods in which it occurs. Some involve redirecting
traditional criminal justice activities, such as community
policing. Others involve "non-crime" strategies like
sponsoring after-school activities for youth, promotion of
neighborhood clean-ups, and economic development. Community
"cleanups" of graffiti, trash, needles and crack vials
can promote a climate of safety and order. Neighborhood-based
cleanups have been shown to increase perceptions of safety (Rosenbaum 1991).
Crime breeds fear, and
fear drives business from neighborhoods with rising rates of
crime. When businesses relocate to the suburbs, opportunities for
legitimate employment are decreased. Erosion of the tax base due
to unemployment eventually leads to a reduction of municipal
services and decreased support for public education. These, in
turn, contribute to further deterioration in the social and
physical condition of poor communities (Skogan
economic and social conditions may discourage crime (Sampson 1995). "Non-crime" policies such as
zoning, provision of municipal services, tax incentives for new
business and other strategies to promote economic development may
play a crucial role in reversing the downward spiral of low
income, high crime areas.
must organize to effectively communicate their concerns. Many
decisions that profoundly influence quality of life are made by
agencies and officials residing outside the affected
neighborhoods (Sampson 1995). Unstable or disorganized communities
cannot defend their interests against competing agendas.
neighborhood organizations can strengthen social ties between
families. Examples of activities include forming citizen patrols
to provide safe corridors to and from school, picketing crack
houses, and organizing a neighborhood "night out."
strategies have been evaluated in a number of settings, mostly
involving non-equivalent neighborhood comparisons (Howell
and Bilchik 1995).
Interventions of this sort have generally been associated with
improved community perceptions (less perceived crime and
disorder, greater perceived police presence). However, most have
failed to produce significant decreases in neighborhood crime
rates or self-reports of victimization (Wyckoff 1985, Rosenbaum 1986, Lindsay