I. A National Strategy for Juvenile Delinquency Prevention

The latest statistics on juvenile crime and delinquency in the United States provide encouraging evidence that Federal, State, and local prevention and intervention strategies are taking hold. Juvenile arrests for violent crime are substantially below their peak in the early 1980's, suggesting that the feared "wave of violence" may be subsiding. In 1997, for the third year in a row, the total number of juvenile arrests for violent crimes declined, despite continued growth in the juvenile population. Most notably, the number of juvenile arrests for murder decreased 39 percent from 1993 to 1997. During the same period, arrests for weapons law violations dropped 23 percent (Snyder, 1998).

Despite the recent and encouraging reversal of national arrest and juvenile drug use trends, however, the problems of juvenile crime and delinquency remain far from eradicated. In 1997, law enforcement agencies made an estimated 2.8 million arrests of persons under the age 18, including 123,400 arrests for violent crimes, 701,500 for property crimes (i.e., burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson), and 220,700 for drug abuse violations (Snyder, 1998). Arrest data tell only part of the story of the well-being of children and youth in our country. According to the 1997 Monitoring the Future Survey, almost one in three 12th graders and one in four 10th graders reported heavy drinking (at least five drinks in a row in the previous 2 weeks) and roughly a quarter of 12th and 10th graders reported using illicit drugs in the previous 30 days (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998). Additionally, while adolescent birth rates have declined in the 1990's, in 1996 there were approximately 34 births per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 17 (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998).

The factors that place youth at risk of adolescent problem behavior are still all too prevalent in families and communities. Almost 1 million children were the victims of substantiated child abuse and neglect in 1996 (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998) and 20 percent of children under age 18 lived in poverty (Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 1998). Firearms and drugs are frequently too easy for youth to access, and community laws and norms in some cities and towns may inadvertently send the wrong messages to our Nation's youth.

We need to build on our recent accomplishments in the prevention and reduction of juvenile crime by continuing to implement community-based prevention and early intervention programs that address risk factors, strengthen families, and provide youth with opportunities to succeed. Further, the use of accountability-based sanctions is vital to protecting the public and dealing with juvenile offenders.

The Title V Community Prevention Grants Program provides communities with the resources needed to identify and respond to the root causes of their local juvenile delinquency problems through comprehensive, collaborative prevention planning. The program offers training and technical assistance to communities as they conduct assessments and develop local plans, and then provides seed funding to help communities implement their plans over a 3-year period. In the process, communities are empowered to initiate delinquency prevention programs that best suit their unique needs and circumstances. With the Community Prevention Grants Program, OJJDP has developed, implemented, and is now testing the effects of a delinquency prevention strategy that is firmly grounded in research and the science of prevention. Communities across the country are translating this research into practice and beginning to see positive results from their efforts.

This chapter begins with a summary of key research findings on juvenile crime and delinquency and effective approaches to prevent and control it. The second section briefly describes OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders and the role Title V plays in the prevention component. The final section provides an overview of the Community Prevention Grants Program, with a discussion of its key principles, grant award process, capacity building components, and national evaluation strategy.

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1998 Report to Congress: Title V Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs OJJDP Report