3. Reduce Youth Involvement With Guns, Drugs, and Gangs
The involvement of judges, prosecutors, social service providers, law enforcement officers, crime victims, community-based organizations, and others is critical to improving the juvenile justice system and reducing youth violence. The Action Plan supports interagency law enforcement teams, or task forces, that coordinate the investigative efforts and suppression tactics of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies in weapons, drug, and gang arrests.
In many communities, law enforcement has taken the lead in implementing innovative juvenile crime prevention and intervention efforts as part of an overall community oriented policing approach. Successful public safety and prevention strategies provide comprehensive, targeted community services and support to youth to keep them from becoming the next generation of offenders. Youth-focused community oriented policing that is effectively linked to the juvenile justice system can significantly contribute to the reduction of crime, restoration of order, and eradication of fear in local communities.
This section addresses four primary problem areas in which law enforcement plays a critical leading role: juvenile gun violence; the combination of youth, guns, and drugs; the link between drugs and delinquency; and youth gangs. Examples of programs illustrate effective ways of finding solutions to each of these problems in local communities. The Action Plan supports strong measures to prevent juveniles from using guns illegally and to remove guns from schools through youth-focused community oriented policing, reducing the availability of firearms to youth, strengthening anti-drug and anti-gang measures, and building healthy communities through expanded youth opportunities.
The Action Plan also supports the development of model juvenile handgun legislation to facilitate law enforcement activities. Further, it encourages the efforts of school officials to remove guns from schools, and supports the dissemination of information on promising juvenile gun violence reduction programs, and the provision of technical assistance to achieve those goals.
Current Status and Analysis of the Problem
Juvenile Gun Violence
A trend analysis of juvenile homicide offenses shows that since the mid-1970's, the number of homicides in which no firearm was involved has remained fairly constant. However, homicides by juveniles involving a firearm have increased nearly threefold. In addition, during this same period, the number of juvenile arrests for weapons violations increased 117 percent. When guns are the weapon of choice, juvenile violence becomes deadly.1 (See figure 9 for an illustration of the increasing incidence of gun homicides committed by juveniles.)
Because recent crime statistics excluding homicides gathered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation do not show all chargeable offenses involved in a particular incident, there is no reliable way to determine how many crimes involved a weapon, what was the nature of any injury, or whether the crime involved illicit drugs. Therefore, it is difficult to determine the precise role that guns and illegal drugs have played in the recent increase in violent juvenile crime. Although there are gaps, the data make a compelling case that the role of guns in juvenile-related homicides is increasing at an unprecedented level.
During the period 1976 to 1991, firearms were used by 65 percent of juvenile homicide offenders (44 percent used handguns). Firearms were used in nearly 8 out of 10 juvenile homicides in 1991, compared with 6 out of 10 in 1976.2
Young black males have the most elevated homicide victimization rate of any race or gender group. Homicides involving firearms have been the leading cause of death for black males ages 15 to 19 since 1969, and the rates more than doubled in the decade from 1979 (40 deaths per 100,000) to 1989 (85 deaths per 100,000).3 Teenage boys in all racial and ethnic groups are more likely to die from gunshot wounds than from all natural causes combined.4
Between 1979 and 1991, the rate of suicide among youth ages 15 to 19 increased 31 percent. In 1991, 1,899 youth ages 15 to 19 committed suicide, a rate of 11 per 100,000 youth in this age group. Firearms were used in 6 out of 10 suicides among youth ages 15 to 19 in 1989.5
In 1990, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed a nationally representative sample of 9th- to 12th-grade students about the number of times they had carried a weapon such as a gun, knife, or club during the prior 30 days. One in 20 students indicated he or she had carried a firearm, usually a handgun. A number of additional surveys confirm an increased propensity among young people to carry guns.6 The increased availability of guns and access to guns by youth have had devastating consequences on schools and communities. In many schools, learning is no longer the top priority; survival concerns lead many students to avoid school entirely or carry weapons for protection. Educators must divert attention from academics to monitor and control student aggression. In neighborhoods, people are apprehensive about going outside their homes, and fights that once involved fists have become deadly exchanges.
Figure 9: Juvenile gun homicides
Gun homicides by juveniles have nearly tripled since 1983, while
homicides involving other weapons have actually declined.
From 1983 through 1991, the proportion of homicides in which the juvenile used a gun increased from 55% to 78%.
Data Source: FBI. 1993 Supplementary homicide reports 1976-1991 [machine-readable data files].
Source: Snyder, H., and M. Sickmund. 1995 (August). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
Youth, Guns, and Drugs
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) is currently supporting research on the causes and correlates of delinquency and has found a strong relationship among illegal gun possession by juveniles, delinquency, and drug use. Nearly 3 in 4 juveniles who illegally possessed guns committed some type of street crime; 1 in 4 committed a gun- related crime; and 4 out of 10 used drugs.7
Drug activity appears to exacerbate juvenile violence in two ways. First, firearms are more prevalent around drug activity.8 In 1984, the United States saw a dramatic increase in juvenile gun homicide, coinciding with the introduction of crack cocaine into urban communities. Studies show that as the use of guns by drug-involved youth increases, other young people obtain guns for their own protection. This cycle of fear or "diffusion" theory9 is supported by recent research on the "ecology of danger."10 A 1993 Louis Harris poll showed that 35 percent of children ages 6 to 12 fear their lives will be cut short by gun violence,11 and a longitudinal study of 1,500 Pittsburgh, PA, boys revealed that their frequency of carrying a concealed weapon increased when they began selling drugs.12
The second way drugs and juvenile gun violence appear related is through the impact of drugs on a young person's perceptions. Adolescence is a time of taking risks and seeking stimulation, and juvenile delinquents report a certain level of excitement as well as fear of apprehension in the commission of a crime. Many youth revel at the thrill of roller coasters, some ignore cautions about "safe sex," and others seek an "ultimate high" from illicit drugs or possession of a deadly weapon.
Drugs and Delinquency
Although researchers have not established a definite causal link between drug use and delinquency, they have confirmed a delinquency-illegal drug use correlation. In the 1987 Survey of Children in Custody, 81 percent of wards in State-operated institutions responded affirmatively when questioned about lifetime use of drugs.13 Nearly half (48 percent) admitted to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol while committing the offense for which they were institutionalized. Although there is some variance across offense categories, the percentage of institutionalized wards who reported being under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense ranged from 34 percent in the case of rape offenses to 51 percent for robberies and 59 percent for drug possession.
Although the link between drug use by juveniles involved in serious delinquency and by those not attending school is well documented, drug use by another segment of the youth population not considered to be at risk students who have progressed to their senior year in high school also continues to be the focus of serious concern. According to the results of a 1994 national household survey, monthly marijuana use among 12- to 17- year-olds nearly doubled from 1992 to 1994 -- from 4.0 percent of students surveyed to 7.3 percent -- following a steady decline in drug use from 1979 to 1992. The survey also reported that 2 million youth rate themselves as heavy alcohol drinkers, with over 1 billion cans of beer being consumed annually by junior and senior high school students alone.14
Today, youth gangs exist in nearly every State. One expert estimates that more than 3,875 youth gangs with a total of more than 200,000 gang members are established in the 79 largest U.S. cities.15 Gang activity has extended beyond the inner city of major population centers into smaller communities and suburbs. Today's gangs are best characterized by their diversity in ethnic composition, geographical location, organization, and the nature and extent of members' involvement in delinquent and/or criminal activities.16 In the 79 U.S. cities with populations over 200,000, 91 percent reported having a gang problem that had spread from the streets into areas traditionally considered safe havens, such as schools.17 In the Chicago metropolitan area, all public and some parochial high schools, including many in suburban Cook County, reported evidence of gang activity.18
Researchers have identified a number of factors that put youth at risk of gang involvement: poverty, school failure, substance abuse, family dysfunction, and domestic and societal violence.19 Easy access to illicit drugs and the perceived financial rewards of drug dealing pose attractive alternatives for youth with inadequate education and limited employment opportunities, leading them into high-risk behaviors and potential gang involvement. Gang recruits often have a poor self-image, low self-esteem, and little adult participation in their lives. Some of them are children of gang members and are choosing a familiar lifestyle. Many are seeking the recognition they fail to receive from home or school. Even parents with strong parenting skills cannot ensure that their children will not become involved in gangs, particularly in low-income, problem-ridden neighborhoods.
Youth gang research has focused extensively on the gang-drug nexus. Recent research, however, suggests that there is also a significant connection among gang involvement, gang violence, and firearms. In one study based on responses from 835 male inmates in 6 juvenile correctional facilities in 4 States, researchers found that movement from nongang membership to gang membership brought increases in most forms of gun-involved conduct. Forty-five percent described gun theft as a regular gang activity. Sixty-eight percent said their gang regularly bought and sold guns, and 61 percent described "driving around shooting at people you don't like" as a regular gang activity.20
Additionally, experts report that gangs appear to be increasing their organizational sophistication and their propensity for individual and collective violence.21 These structural and behavioral changes are often, but not universally, attributed to the impact of the drug trade and the availability of firearms. Another study indicates that gang homicide settings differ from nongang homicide settings in that they are more likely to involve public areas, automobiles, and firearms, among other elements.22 The researchers further speculate that location, automobile involvement, and gun presence suggest potential points of intervention.
Effective and Promising Strategies and Programs
Getting Guns Out of the Hands of Juveniles
Research suggests that to reduce the environment of fear and achieve the greatest reduction in the number of weapon-carrying youth, efforts must be directed at frequent weapon carriers.23 Youth gun-reduction and fear-reduction strategies should reinforce one another. One expert suggests a "market disruption" approach, such as that used to fight street drug markets.24 Police have been successful in reducing drug trafficking in communities by using community allies to report new dealing sites, making buyers feel vulnerable by publicizing reverse sting operations in which police pose as dealers and arrest buyers, and interfering with business by loitering around dealer sites. Community support and youth involvement in planning and implementation are critical to the effectiveness of such an operation.
The Kansas City (MO) Gun Experiment is an example of a successful effort. The Department of Justice (DOJ), the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Kansas City Police Department worked together to form a working group consisting of law enforcement, human service agencies, and community organizations to focus police efforts in high-crime neighborhoods by routinely stop-ping traffic violators, youth in violation of curfews, and individuals involved in other infractions of the law. During these routine stops, police look for any infractions that give them legal authority to search a car or pedestrian for illegal guns. Special gun-intercept teams have proven to be 10 times more cost effective than regular police patrols.25
Targeted on an 80-block neighborhood with a homicide rate 20 times the national average, the Kansas City program reduced crime by at least 50 percent during a 6-month period. In addition, the program did not displace crime to other locations -- gun crimes did not increase significantly in any of the surrounding seven patrol beats. Despite the fact that previous police campaigns had drawn protests of discrimination, the gun-intercept program did not experience such protests. Police had involved community and religious leaders in initial planning, and neighborhoods had actively sought greater police activity. Results of a recent program evaluation funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) indicate that this strategy appears very promising: gun crimes in the target neighborhoods declined 49 percent and drive-by shootings and homicides also dropped significantly.26
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms' (ATF's) Achilles Program coordinates ATF's resources with State and local law enforcement to combat armed, violent gangs and armed narcotics traffickers in 21 of the Nation's communities with the highest levels of firearms-related violence. This initiative focuses on the enforcement of tough Federal firearms laws that require minimum/mandatory sentencing with no chance of parole for convicted offenders. The Achilles Program targets gangs that lure juveniles into a life of crime. Because firearms, unlike narcotics or other forms of contraband, are not easily disposable, they often provide a history of the criminal and can link the individual to other crimes and provide valuable intelligence about the offender's criminal associates. Consequently, firearms can be an Achilles' heel for gangs and violent criminals.27
Focusing on Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression Strategies
A combination of prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies has been implemented in communities across the United States to address the problem of gangs. It is imperative that any program, whether prevention, intervention, suppression, or any combination of these, be based in sound theory and work closely with the juvenile justice system. Specifically, policies and programs must be based on appropriate targeting of both institutions and youth, as well as their relation to each other at a specific time and place. For example, it is important to focus on youth entering or leaving a gang and on the developmental stage of the gang problem.28
In the late 1980's and early 1990's, OJJDP supported the completion of two phases of a National Youth Gang Suppression and Intervention Program. This program has provided an assessment of youth gang research, including definitions, the nature and causes of the youth gang phenomenon, and the effectiveness of the program strategies used by various agencies and organizations in the community.29 The need for conclusive evaluations of these strategies was emphasized, but the following common elements appear to be associated with the sustained reduction of gang problems:
- Leaders must recognize that gangs are present in the community and that suppression strategies must be complemented by prevention and intervention strategies.
- Community leaders must reach a consensus on the nature of the problem and the critical points for intervention.
- The combined leadership of the justice system and community-based organizations must focus on the mobilization of political and community resources to address gang problems.
- Leaders must create a mechanism or structure to coordinate communitywide efforts.
- A team comprising representatives from law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, probation, corrections, schools, community-based organizations, grassroots agencies, and other groups must prepare a set of policies and practices for the design and mobilization of community efforts.
OJJDP's Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach to Gang Prevention, Intervention, and Suppression (Gang Suppression and Intervention) Program provides policies and practices and a detailed analysis of how various components of a community can, in partnership, approach chronic and emerging gang problems.
OJJDP is in the process of completing the final phases (implementation and testing) of this program through A Comprehensive Response to America's Gang Problem (Comprehensive Response Initiative). Five jurisdictions have been awarded funds to begin a 3-year effort to implement the comprehensive model developed under the Gang Suppression and Intervention Program. These demonstration sites, which are experiencing an emerging or chronic gang problem, are Mesa and Tucson, AZ; Riverside, CA; Bloomington, IL; and San Antonio, TX.
Other components of the Comprehensive Response Initiative are:
- The National Youth Gang Center, operated by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research located in Tallahassee, FL, which is designed to assist State and local jurisdictions in the collection, analysis, and exchange of gang-related statistics, legislation, research, and promising program strategies.
- An independent evaluation of the Gang Suppression and Intervention Program to determine how the five demonstration sites, confronted by chronic or emerging gang problems, can effectively plan and implement a comprehensive anti-gang violence model program and to test the efficacy of such a model.
- Training and technical assistance in areas such as community mobilization, youth gang problem assessment, program strategy design, and data collection and analysis to support communities in their planning and implementation efforts.
- Targeted dissemination and acquisition of youth gang-related resources, including publications, manuals, and research findings through OJJDP's Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse.
These components represent a comprehensive Federal effort to prevent, intervene, and suppress youth gang violence and to help communities learn what programs and strategies are effective.
With support from OJJDP, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America has successfully expanded its Targeted Outreach Program through its local clubs. This program, designed to serve at-risk youth, is currently used as a strategy for youth gang prevention and to intervene with gang members in the early stages of gang involvement. This program has been implemented in over 200 clubs, reaching tens of thousands of young people. The clubs offer positive activities as alternatives to the lure of gangs. The organization's national office provides training and technical assistance to local clubs that are potential expansion sites. A 1992 evaluation of this program found that 90 percent of the youth served by the program attended the club once a week or more and that 48 percent showed improvement in school behavior. Over one-third reported improved grades and an additional one-third reported increased attendance.30
ATF continues to support gang prevention efforts nationwide through the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) Program. GREAT is an educational, school-based gang prevention program that was originally developed in response to an escalating youth gang problem in metropolitan Phoenix, AZ. Representatives from ATF, area law enforcement agencies, and local educators designed GREAT to help children set goals, make sound judgments, learn how to resolve conflicts without violence, and understand how gangs and youth violence negatively affect the quality of their lives. The GREAT curriculum provides teenagers with critical skills and information to resist gang involvement and learn to become responsible members of society. GREAT also offers optional curriculums for grades three to six, as well as a followup summer recreation program.
To date, 1,300 officers from more than 530 agencies representing 45 States, the District of Columbia, and military bases overseas, have been trained to present the core curriculum in elementary, junior high, and middle school classrooms. Since the program's inception in 1992, more than 2 million children have received GREAT program training.
Nuestro Centro (Our Center) Gang, Drug, and Dropout Intervention Program in Dallas, TX, inaugurated in 1991 with OJJDP funds, took a grassroots preventive approach to the problem of juvenile violence. Citizens and community leaders in a predominantly minority neighborhood decided to take back their streets by converting an abandoned fire station into a community-run youth center. Participants in the afterschool program are unemployed and undereducated youth affected by drug abuse, gangs, school problems, family problems, physical and sexual abuse, and delinquency. Through the dedicated work of counselors and volunteers, most of whom live in the neighborhood, the program has shown significant success in deterring gang violence and drug use, with 95 percent of participants surveyed involved in educational activities, including school, general equivalency diploma (GED) preparation, and vocational training.31
A joint effort between the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Housing Authority Police Department provides another promising model that specifically targets public housing. Funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), the Building Interdiction Team Effort (BITE) secures the perimeters of buildings, challenges suspicious persons, patrols and searches common areas and vacant apartments, and conducts searches of occupied units with tenant consent. This concentrated effort on the part of police is sending a clear message to the gangs that these buildings contain family homes and are neither havens for criminal activity nor turf to be claimed. Preliminary results indicate that the program has improved overall safety and reduced drug trafficking in one housing development and drug-related violence in another.32
The San Diego Urban Street Gang Drug Trafficking Enforcement Demonstration Project, funded by BJA, is another example of a successful approach. It targets young adult (ages 18 to 25) gang leaders identified by law enforcement as being involved in drug trafficking and gang-perpetrated violence and whose apprehension and prosecution would significantly alleviate or prevent an increase in drug trafficking, related violence, and economic disruption of the community. During the first 2 years, over 160 hardcore gang members were arrested and successfully prosecuted through these operations. Using enhanced prosecution strategies, targeted gang members received lengthy prison terms, which reduced gang violence in San Diego.33
Enhancing Youth-Focused Community Oriented Policing
Research from the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence suggests that violence may be a response to young people's perception that the authorities cannot protect them or maintain order in their neighborhoods.34 Other researchers believe that the fundamental challenge with youth and firearms is to convince youth that they can survive in their neighborhoods without being armed.35 Successfully reducing firearm possession means reducing both perceived environmental dangers and actual opportunities for weapon-associated violence.36 Because the fear of assault is often stated as the reason youth carry firearms, programs should be implemented that address the risk of victimization, improve school safety, and foster a secure community environment.37
Law enforcement agencies increasingly emphasize that juvenile delinquency prevention and intervention are key elements of community oriented policing. However, many law enforcement agencies and community organizations lack the information and resources to intervene effectively in situations involving youthful offenders. Public safety and prevention strategies can provide comprehensive, targeted, community services and support to at-risk youth. The Action Plan supports youth-focused community oriented policing and believes it has the potential to contribute significantly to the reduction of crime, disorder, and fear.
In 1992, the New Haven (CT) Police Department and the Yale Child Study Center initiated the Child Development-Community Policing Program. Although not specifically dedicated to gun, gang, or drug reduction, this police department uses officers to work with children and their families to prevent violent juvenile crime and to help them cope with the stress caused by living with violence. A key element of the program is to increase police officers' level of confidence and competence in working with youth who have been victims of or witnesses to violence, recognizing a child's emotional needs, and understanding family dynamics. This approach is also intended to enable clinicians to intervene at the time of crisis and have a better understanding of the risk factors and problems that lead to violence and crime.
Other youth-focused community oriented policing strategies and programs that have demonstrated promise and/or effectiveness include:
- Reintegrative Policing Strategies, in which law enforcement officers help juveniles make the transition into the community following secure confinement.
- Police Athletic Leagues (PAL), in which police provide a wide array of youth activities and programs that serve as alternatives to gang involvement, drug use, and other delinquency.
- Futures Programs in Philadelphia, PA, and other jurisdictions, in which police officers serve as mentors and role models, focusing on the academic achievement of at-risk students.
- Kids and Kops Day, part of the Santa Ana (CA) Police Department's youth-related activities, in which police officers spend a day with at-risk youth attending recreational and cultural events and participating in community activities.
- Multidisciplinary team building, such as the Family Assessment Services Teams of the Norfolk (VA) Police Assisted Community Enforcement project, which addresses the needs of multiproblem families in targeted neighborhoods and serves as a vehicle for information sharing and problemsolving at the neighborhood level. The program led to a drop in violent crime in the targeted neighborhoods.
Promoting Maturity and Respect for Life
Developmental issues associated with a lack of maturity can contribute to youth violence. Young people seldom understand the full impact of their behavior.38 This lack of awareness of consequences coupled with a tendency to respond with violence can be a lethal combination. Prevention strategies that help youth to understand the impact of and take responsibility for their actions and that demonstrate ways to handle problems without resorting to violence can be highly effective.39 Such programs should be available to high-risk youth between the fifth and sixth grades, when violence-prone attitudes appear to increase and become entrenched.
Research has shown that in addition to the environment of fear in which many youth live, the culture of the illicit gun trade has popularized firearms and made backing down from arguments and "losing face" difficult for young people.40 Self-defense, the need to show off, or the need to ensure respect and acquiescence from others can also contribute to youth gun violence.41 Other studies indicate that youth who respond aggressively to shame, who find guns exciting, who feel comfortable with aggression, and who believe that guns bring power and safety are most likely to engage in gun violence.42 Thus, prevention programs that promote self-esteem, respect for others, cultural pride, and nonviolent conflict resolution can be an effective antidote to the culture of violence.43 Adult programs focusing on parenting skills can complement youth gun violence prevention programs. Classes on gun violence and its impact on victims should be provided in juvenile justice programs, schools, and community settings.
Reducing Firearms Availability, Strengthening Regulations, and Applying Technological Innovations
Safer gun design, regulation, product liability, increased sales tax, firearm registration and licensure, background checks, and ammunition modification are ways to reduce the dangers and availability of guns.44 Stricter legislation and assault weapon and illegal handgun bans are approaches almost unanimously suggested by researchers as ways to limit the accessibility of guns to youth.45 The National Rifle Association also favors regulations relating to the access and misuse of firearms by minors, particularly at the State level.46 Figure 10 highlights the 16 States that prohibited the possession of handguns by juveniles in 1993. In addition to these States, all but three of the States and Territories have code provisions relating to juvenile possession of firearms.
An evaluation of the effectiveness of local gun laws and policies shows that mandatory sentencing laws for felonies involving a firearm have prevented gun-related violent crime.47 Restrictive handgun laws also show indications of effectiveness.48 Other types of laws have not been evaluated adequately to determine their effectiveness.
Technological changes are an important approach to reducing both youth gun violence and the extensive use of guns against their owners. Low prices49 and innovations in firearm and ammunition manufacturing50 further increase the lethal nature of youth gun violence. Firearm design requirements are both technological and legal interventions that can decrease accessibility of deadly weapons by young people.
Figure 10: State juvenile handgun prohibitions
At the end of 1993, 16 States had laws prohibiting the possession of handguns by juveniles
Note: Analysis conducted 10/94; some provisions effective 1/1/95.
Source: Snyder, H., and M. Sickmund. 1995 (August). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report. Washington, D.C.: OFfice of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.
Preventing and Treating Drug Abuse
Additional support for drug and alcohol prevention and treatment is also an effective anti-violence strategy.51 Reducing the illicit drug trade would reduce drug-related violence as well as drug-induced violence. In addition, researchers have shown that a reduction in the number of juveniles selling drugs is likely to reduce the carrying of concealed weapons, particularly guns.52
The 1995 National Drug Control Strategy53 empowers communities to respond to their own drug problem through initiatives such as community policing and the Safe and Drug-Free School and Communities Program. The Strategy seeks to reduce chronic, hardcore drug use through treatment, including the support of drug courts, substance abuse treatment in detention and secure confinement facilities, and a Substance Abuse Performance Partnership, which coordinates the activities of national substance abuse prevention organizations. Finally, it places critical emphasis on source countries, focusing on programs to achieve democratic institution building, dismantling narcotics trafficking organizations, and interdicting drugs.
OJJDP supports the implementation of the Congress of National Black Churches' National Anti-Drug/Violence Campaign's (NADVC's) Technical Assistance and Training Program. This program implements national training and technical assistance designed to increase public awareness and mobilize residents to address the problems of drug abuse and related crimes in targeted communities throughout the United States. It also works to summon, focus, and coordinate church, public, and community leadership to launch local anti-drug campaigns. This campaign is being implemented in 37 cities involving 1,760 clergy and affecting about 500,000 members. NADVC has helped the sites leverage over $13.4 million in direct funding to local site anti-drug, anti-violence initiatives.
Through its Community Anti-Drug Abuse Technical Assistance Voucher Project, OJJDP assists the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE) to extend its outreach to community-based grassroots organizations that are working to solve the problem of juvenile drug abuse. The project has three goals:
- To allow various neighborhood groups to inexpensively purchase needed services through the use of technical assistance vouchers disbursed by NCNE.
- To demonstrate the cost-effective use of vouchers to help neighborhood groups secure technical assistance for anti-drug abuse projects to serve high-risk youth.
- To extend OJJDP technical assistance to groups that are traditionally excluded because they lack the administrative sophistication, technical and grantsmanship skills, and resources to participate in traditional competitive grant programs.
NCNE provides support to community groups in developing and implementing a strategy under DOJ's Operation Weed and Seed program; functions as a clearinghouse for information on community anti-drug prevention initiatives; and reviews technical assistance applications to select up to 25 eligible community-based, anti-drug programs for award vouchers. Vouchers, which range in value from $1,000 to $10,000, can be used for planning, proposal writing, program promotion, legal assistance, financial management, and other activities.
Selection of voucher awardees and amounts is determined by the degree to which applicants meet the following criteria: not previously funded by NCNE; lack of access to traditional funding sources; need for technical assistance and training; small budget; comprehensiveness of youth anti-drug programs; and clarity and feasibility of strategies presented in the application to NCNE.
Building Community and Increasing Opportunity
Youth gun and drug violence researchers agree that the strategies suggested above should be accomplished by a broad coalition of individuals and organizations.54 Crime control professionals, public health and other health professionals, victims' families, educators, lawmakers and criminologists, gun control groups, community-based organizations, the elderly, the armed services, the Federal Communications Commission, and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission can all participate in advocating for the freedom of our youth from gun, gang, and drug violence.
Youth who embrace the culture of violence are most likely to be those who feel that they have no stake in society and no trust in the adults who are supposed to provide them with safety and guidance. Communities must address the culture of violence and lack of opportunity and alternatives, reaching out to youth who feel disenfranchised from the adult world and providing them with positive opportunities.55 An effective strategy is one that includes young people as a resource and provides legitimate activities and opportunities for them.56
Research has shown that high levels of poverty, high rates of single-parent households, educational failure, and a widespread sense of economic hopelessness exacerbate the cycle of fear or diffusion phenomenon and increase the use of guns by young people.57 Youth drug involvement, crime in neighborhoods, and violence portrayed in the media are also factors contributing to the use of guns by young people.58 Therefore, the Action Plan endorses support and service systems for families and neighborhoods that complement any intervention focused on the individual.
In the past decade, Knoxville, TN, along with many other cities, experienced a growth in crime and drug-related problems in its public housing communities. During this same time, communications and liaison between the police department and the municipal housing authority, the Knoxville Community Development Corporation (KCDC), were unsatisfactory. Many field officers were unhappy with KCDC because they felt the housing authority was not sufficiently addressing crime. KCDC saw its role as limited to the housing business and felt the police department should be the agency to address all crime-related issues.
Members of the police department and KCDC took action to become involved in a citywide, multiagency committee to look at the city's crime problem. From this group, members of the police department and KCDC developed a strong working relationship and collaborated to examine ways to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in KCDC housing projects.
Significant outcomes in KCDC housing projects have been produced through Operation Safe Home, which is part of the broader collaborative efforts of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and DOJ. Drug dealing has been disrupted. Many drug offenders have been evicted, making housing developments safer. Fences have been installed. Shrubbery has been cut back to reveal criminals' hiding places. Where there was little or poor lighting, new high-pressure sodium lights have been installed, and a general cleanup has taken place. Diversity training is being provided to police department employees to help them gain a better understanding of cultural differences and to facilitate the process of community oriented policing. As a result of the drug abuse prevention education initiatives and the progressive intervention of the collaboration, violent crimes in Knoxville for 1993 were on the decline.59
Implementing Comprehensive Curfew Initiatives
Communities are increasingly recognizing the importance of integrating curfew legislation with youth services such as job training and placement opportunities, individual and family counseling programs, and youth development recreational programs, in an effort to further reduce juvenile crime and victimization.
The curfew program in Phoenix, AZ, illustrates one city's multifaceted response to juvenile curfew violations. A review of an ineffective curfew ordinance enacted in 1968 led to the formation of a partnership between the police department and the Parks, Recreation, and Library Department. Curfew violators, detained by police, are supervised by recreation specialists at the city's gymnasiums. They are counseled and engaged in recreational activities until parents arrive. An additional aspect of the Phoenix curfew program involves targeting juvenile curfew violators who are also gang members. They, too, are counseled and exposed to positive alternatives to gang affiliation. Some curfew offenders receive followup care to determine if further support services are needed. These curfew programs have worked because other services, such as recreation and parental counseling, are part of an integrated strategy.
Federal Action Steps
Enhance Law Enforcement's Capacity To Respond to Juvenile Crime and Drug Trafficking
Through its law enforcement and training contract, OJJDP will provide training and technical assistance to help law enforcement agencies improve their capabilities to respond to serious juvenile crime and contribute more effectively to delinquency prevention.
HUD will support agency efforts to combat drug trafficking in public and Native American housing developments by encouraging housing authorities to address drug-related activities, reimbursing local law enforcement agencies, enhancing security in housing developments, and providing social services to residents.
ATF's Project Uptown will address the problem of armed gangs and armed narcotics trafficking in public housing. The New York City Uptown initiative involves the concentration of enforcement resources by ATF, the New York Housing Authority Police Department, and the Office of the U.S. Attorney in selected public housing developments to reduce gang-related violence.
With experience gained through Project Uptown, ATF, in cooperation with HUD, developed a successful strategy and guidebook entitled Addressing Violent Crime in Public Housing Developments,60 which it will disseminate to interested individuals.
To enable the criminal justice system to react more effectively to the problem of youth and drugs, NIJ will fund research to assess the magnitude of youth gang involvement in drug trafficking.
Support Interagency Gun and Drug Interdiction and Suppression Strategies
The Coordinating Council will support the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) in implementing its National Drug Control Strategy to eradicate drug sources and reduce the demand for drugs.
BJA will establish and fund a national law enforcement organization to provide training and administrative support to the Interstate Firearms Trafficking Compact, composed of 14 States and the District of Columbia, which works to eliminate illegal gun trafficking and to improve the investigation and prosecution of cases involving the criminal use of firearms.
DOJ will support continuation of interagency partnerships that promote comprehensive, community-based gun interdiction strategies and will work with community organizations to ensure that schools, public housing developments, and other high-priority settings are free from gun violence.
ATF will implement the Violence Reduction Alliance (VRA), a comprehensive, nationwide strategy to stop illegal firearms trafficking. VRA will coordinate the resources of Federal, State, and local law enforcement to combat and prosecute violent criminals and also target for prosecution illegal firearms traffickers who supply firearms to violent criminals. Through VRA, ATF will provide support to investigative efforts with Project LEAD, the illegal firearms trafficking data base, and ATF's National Firearms Tracing Center.
BJA will document promising suppression and interdiction strategies to assist other jurisdictions that wish to implement such approaches.
BJA and OJJDP will provide funds to assist State and local jurisdictions to develop and implement new or enhanced strategies to prevent the illegal possession and use of firearms by youth.
Get Guns Out of Schools
The Department of Education (ED) will provide guidance to local schools and law enforcement agencies to implement the Gun- Free Schools Act of 1994, 8 U.S.C. § 14601. The law requires States that receive Federal elementary and secondary education funds to require school districts to expel for at least 1 year any student who brings a gun to school, subject to certain exceptions. The law also requires local education agencies that receive Federal funding to adopt a mandatory policy of referring students who bring firearms or other weapons to school to law enforcement agencies.
ED will work with OJJDP to support alternative education programs to keep youth expelled for weapons violations off the streets.
ATF will continue to trace all firearms recovered from juveniles at school or at the scene of a crime through the juvenile firearms tracing initiative operating at the National Tracing Center. When warranted, ATF will investigate and recommend to the local U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution those individuals found to be providing firearms illegally to juveniles. ATF will also analyze the juvenile firearms trace data to determine trends in armed juvenile crime and frequent sources of firearms for juveniles. This program will permit Federal law enforcement to more accurately gauge the extent of firearms in schools and to direct limited Federal prosecution resources in the most effective manner.
Support U.S. Attorneys' Efforts To Advance Local Anti-Crime Initiatives
U.S. Attorneys' offices in each Federal Judicial District will work with Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies to identify, target, and investigate individuals who engage in illegal trafficking, sales, possession, or use of firearms. Prosecution will be vigorously pursued through the Federal and State courts. Each office will implement the following strategies to support State and local efforts to get guns out of the hands of young people:
- Enforce laws and prosecute violators in order to disrupt the illegal gun trade.
- Work with State and local officials to enhance enforcement of laws concerning illegal trafficking in firearms and the use of guns to commit crimes.
- Provide encouragement to State and local agencies to trace guns seized from juveniles through ATF's juvenile firearms tracing program.
- Launch targeted enforcement efforts related to juveniles' involvement in firearms trafficking, sales, possession, or use.
- Actively participate in delinquency prevention efforts through Operation Weed and Seed and other community-based initiatives.
- Use public outreach to promote increased personal responsibility among youth concerning the use of guns.
Target Youth Gang Violence
Federal agencies will increase their efforts to work cooperatively at the national, State, and local levels to intervene in youth gang activities. The agencies will use their particular areas of expertise in a comprehensive effort to address the pervasive, multifaceted problems of youth gangs and associated violence. DOJ will provide leadership in implementing gang suppression and intervention strategies, coordinating its efforts with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has traditionally focused on community-based prevention efforts.
In a key element of the DOJ strategy, U.S. Attorneys will work with law enforcement agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels through the operation of task forces to identify, apprehend, and prosecute certain gang-involved juvenile offenders in Federal and State courts.
NIJ will fund research to examine the criminal behavior of gang members, including motivation to join and remain in gangs, the role of gang life in criminal activity, and involvement in the illegal economy. In addition, NIJ will conduct research on the effectiveness of special anti-gang legislation and gang prosecution units.
BJA, OJJDP, and HHS will coordinate, evaluate, and enhance their gang prevention, intervention, and suppression activities. Research will focus on identifying the prevalence and characteristics of violent gangs; examining gang behavior; evaluating prevention and intervention strategies; and analyzing the relationship among gang participation, gang delinquency, and individual violence.
BJA will continue to support the Comprehensive Gang Initiative, which provides funds to eight local jurisdictions including four sites that participate in the Comprehensive Communities Program.
OJJDP will continue to support the Comprehensive Response Initiative, including the activities of the National Youth Gang Center, the five demonstration sites of the Gang Suppression Intervention Program, the independent evaluation of this demonstration effort, the provision of training and technical assistance to these demonstration sites, and the targeted acquisition and dissemination of youth gang-related resources through the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse.
OJJDP will expand the implementation of the comprehensive model developed through the Gang Suppression and Intervention Program by up to six additional demonstration sites, as part of OJJDP's Safe-Futures program. These additional demonstration sites will also benefit from the other components of the Comprehensive Response Initiative.
OJJDP will establish a Gang Consortium, as part of OJJDP's Comprehensive Response Initiative, to facilitate and expand ongoing coordination and enhance youth gang prevention, intervention, and suppression policies and activities, including information exchange and technical assistance services of the many Federal agencies with program emphasis on youth gangs and related problems.
OJJDP will continue to support research of various gangs and gang-related issues. OJJDP will also continue to support the expansion of the Boys & Girls Clubs' Targeted Outreach Program to over 30 more sites, which will serve more than 1,500 additional high-risk and gang-involved youth.
HHS' Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) has awarded six grants to implement action plans developed through the Youth Gang Drug Prevention Program. In FY 1994, FYSB awarded 21 grants under this program to develop 5-year action plans to transform the environment, circumstances, and attitudes that put youth at risk for unhealthy behaviors. The grantees were required to work closely with youth, parents, community-based organizations, police departments, schools, churches, and local businesses to determine the most critical developmental needs of youth, identify gaps in services, and support schools, health systems, and other agencies in collaborative efforts to serve youth.
Advance Youth-Focused Community Oriented Policing
In a joint effort, DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Service Office, the Community Relations Service, and OJJDP will develop a Youth-Focused Community Oriented Policing Initiative designed to assist up to 31 communities in implementing effective community oriented policing strategies that focus on juvenile crime, disorder, and related community problems.
Although each program implemented will focus on a different set of problems within the community, a set of similar activities will be undertaken to:
- Involve the community and youth in problem identification and resolution.
- Enhance law enforcement in the community.
- Increase information sharing among key agencies, organizations, and the community.
- Enhance linkages and cooperation among community agencies and organizations.
- Provide a common framework for decisionmaking and a comprehensive interdisciplinary approach to problemsolving.
- Focus on prevention as well as intervention for delinquent and at-risk youth.
A youth-focused community oriented policing training and technical assistance package based on these principles will be developed.
Provide Information on Curfew Programs for Juveniles
In response to heightened concern among community residents as a result of increased violent juvenile crime and victimization, many jurisdictions have sought various means to protect themselves and the community at large while addressing the need to reduce the incidence of such crime and victimization. One method that has gained widespread use and attention is juvenile curfew ordinances. In order to help jurisdictions better understand curfews and the surrounding controversy, the elements of effective curfew ordinances, and their accompanying enforcement programs, OJJDP is developing a summary document designed to assist jurisdictions interested in establishing a juvenile curfew ordinance and enforcement program.
The document will describe the two-pronged strict scrutiny test some jurisdictions have addressed and satisfied for a curfew law or ordinance to be valid on Constitutional grounds. Up to seven curfew ordinances and their community-based curfew enforcement programs will be highlighted with information on resources, organizations, and jurisdictional contacts provided.
Disseminate Information on Model Youth Handgun Legislation and Strategies for Reducing Gun Violence
Pursuant to the Youth Handgun Safety Act, OJJDP funded the National Criminal Justice Association to survey State handgun laws and ordinances and convene a broad-based group of experts to develop a draft model youth handgun law, with commentary, for the Attorney General's consideration in formulating a proposed Model Code. Following the submission of the Model Code to Congress, DOJ will work with governors, attorneys general, and State legislators to encourage consideration and adoption of youth handgun legislation in all States and U.S. Territories.
To support community efforts to curb youth gun violence, OJJDP will also disseminate a directory of effective anti-gun programs. The directory will contain a summary of current research on youth gun violence, legislation, and contact information for organizations working to address this issue.
In addition, OJJDP will develop a guide to implementing promising strategies to reduce youth gun violence based upon site assessments of innovative programs by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Working with ED, OJJDP will broadly disseminate this information to U.S. Attorneys, chiefs of police, education organizations, juvenile justice specialists, and other agencies and individuals.
The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) will provide information on youth violence and guns to agencies, organizations, and individuals. This service will bridge the gap between criminal justice and public health research by synthesizing and integrating existing research and cataloging ongoing projects in these areas. In addition to providing an automated data base of criminal and juvenile justice firearms research, NCJRS provides specialized support services to assist clearinghouse users.
Provide Research on the Efficacy of Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Models
NIJ will support a project to develop a comprehensive analysis of drug treatment methods and programs for both juvenile and adult offenders.
Promote the Development of Juvenile Drug Courts
DOJ, through the Office of Justice Programs Drug Court Office, will provide grants to local governments to establish and operate drug court programs, including juvenile drug courts, that provide judicial supervision over nonviolent offenders with substance abuse problems. Drug court programs typically include mandatory, periodic drug testing; substance abuse treatment; diversion, probation, and other types of supervised release; and offender management and aftercare services. In addition, NIJ will continue to fund research to evaluate the effectiveness of drug court programs.
Support Community Efforts To Prevent Substance Abuse and Help Youth Resist Pressure To Use Drugs
The HHS Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) will provide Federal leadership in promoting the development of comprehensive, long-range, multidisciplinary, communitywide programs to address alcohol and other drug use prevention through the Community Partnership demonstration program. This program supports the development of coalitions or partnerships comprising public and private organizations, agencies, and institutions to identify the needs and service gaps in each community, to establish priorities, to coordinate new and established prevention programs in the community, and to help public and private organizations promote and support drug abuse prevention programs.
CSAP will also support the High-Risk Youth Demonstration Program,61 which seeks to counteract factors that place a child at risk for using alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. Projects funded through this initiative will focus on three specific areas:
- Decreasing the incidence and prevalence of alcohol and other drug use among high-risk youth.
- Identifying and reducing factors in the individual, parents, extended family, school, peer group, and neighborhoods that place youth at risk for using alcohol and other drugs.
- Increasing youth resiliency as a way to counter peer pressure to use alcohol and other drugs.
CSAP will disseminate a directory of Federal programs that make grants to States, communities, and private agencies for drug abuse prevention and intervention activities. The directory describes the Federal grantmaking process, provides a catalog of applicable Federal grants and other funding programs, and includes information on additional Federal and private resources. The appendixes contain the most current State-by-State information on Federal formula grants and housing authority grants and list High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program coordinators and State points of contact for drug-related programs.
ONDCP will promote Federal agency partnerships with State, community, and national substance abuse prevention organizations to establish a united front against drug abuse.
Advance Technological Interventions To Reduce Gun Violence
Through its Science and Technology Division, NIJ is working to identify technologies to aid law enforcement in preventing the illegal acquisition and use of firearms. NIJ will continue to fund demonstration projects to assist in designing guns that are harder to conceal and have trigger safeties, fingerprint identification, and loading indicators.
ATF will explore and expand the investigative application of canines in firearms detection. This application was discovered as a result of training methodologies and protocols designed and developed by ATF for canines in explosives detection. ATF has instituted a program that uses its own canine team to detect explosives or firearms, recover evidence, and present demonstrations. Efforts are also under way to make this program available to State and local law enforcement.
NIJ will support the publication of Smart Gun Technology Requirements: A Preliminary Report. The primary purpose of the report is to state the requirements for a smart gun technology that would limit the use of firearms to authorized users. The secondary purpose of the report is technology transfer. For this report, Sandia National Laboratories has collected information from law enforcement agencies, firearm manufacturers, and others. In addition, NIJ will sponsor technology development to create a concealed weapon detection system.
Suggestions for State and Local Action
- Seize firearms from juvenile offenders in school and ensure that firearms information is submitted to ATF for tracing.
- Develop appropriate intervention programs for youth who bring guns to schools.
- Develop a broad-based, multi-disciplinary strategy to inform youth about the dangers of using firearms, prevent them from illegally possessing firearms, and rigorously enforce existing firearms laws as they relate to youth.
- Review existing State firearms statutes in light of the Youth Handgun Safety Act and DOJ's Model Code, and make appropriate revisions to eliminate illegal handgun possession and use by youth.
- Initiate interagency law enforcement efforts to develop comprehensive gun prevention, intervention, and suppression strategies such as gun buy-back programs.
- Involve youth in planning and implementing youth-focused community oriented policing programs.
- Consider using juvenile curfew laws and related programs as one element of a comprehensive approach to reducing juvenile violence and victimization.
- Promote community-based collaborative efforts to assess community gun, gang, and drug problems; develop appropriate suppression, intervention, and prevention strategies; and mobilize community resources.
- Establish juvenile drug courts or sessions as a community resource to address youth substance abuse.
- Establish, support, and enforce drug-free and gun-free zones.
- Teach youth about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse and help youth develop positive social skills.
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Contents | Foreword | Acknowledgments | Introduction | Summary
Figures | Objectives | Conclusion | Appendixes