3. Developing Community-Specific Delinquency Prevention Plans

After conducting a thorough risk and resource assessment, a community is better equipped to make data-driven decisions concerning the types of prevention strategies needed to address their most pressing concerns. The Community Prevention Grants Program requires grantees to develop a 3-year delinquency prevention plan that addresses priority risk factors, strengthens protective factors, fills identified gaps in services, and coordinates existing services systems. The plan is intended to reflect the community's risk, protection, and resource profile. For example, a community with serious academic failure as a key underlying problem would turn to programs focused on curriculum and instructional change, rather than policing strategies. Further, the program model encourages communities to draw upon "promising" programs and strategies in the family, school, community and individual/peer domains that have been shown through research to be effective in reducing risk factors and promoting positive youth development.

All 619 local Title V grantees have developed 3-year delinquency prevention plans as part of their grant applications and are currently at various stages of their implementation. Exhibit 8 presents examples of priority risk factors and selected service delivery programs and systems change approaches adopted by communities to address them. Many of these prevention programs and approaches not only address the environmental risk factors in the community but also enhance protective factors for individual children and youth. They foster protection or resiliency by providing opportunities, skills, and recognition, which support pro-social bonding processes, and also by communicating healthy beliefs and clear standards. For example, the Second Steps Leadership Program in Missouri helps youth build anger management and communication skills, provides opportunities and recognition for youth performance, and also promotes bonding between youth and their mentors. The community policy forums in Pennsylvania address protective factors by establishing clear community standards regarding the non-tolerance of drug use.

In addition to having different risk profiles, the grantee communities vary greatly in their characteristics (e.g., rural versus urban, size, population characteristics) and existing prevention and intervention systems to address delinquency and other problem behaviors. The locally-developed program plans reflect the diversity of communities and frequently integrate local strengths and culture into the prevention strategies. For example, Madison County in southeastern Idaho has heavily involved their strong faith community to work in conjunction with local radio stations and schools to promote positive values, such as honesty, in an integrated fashion. In Kauai, Hawaii, community groups planned a traditional "hukilau" event that brought together community members of various ethnicities and cultural backgrounds to "huki," or pull nets of fish, and established a foundation for continued community building. The Community Prevention Grants Program encourages and supports communities to frame solutions that best meet their unique conditions, resources, and needs.

With its emphasis on building comprehensive prevention plans around data-driven risk and resource assessments, the Community Prevention Grants Program requires many communities to make a significant paradigm shift -- a shift in how they think about prevention, planning, and bringing about community change. Early evaluation findings, however, suggest that some communities may not:

  • Understand the importance of linking prevention plans to identified priority risk factors. Some communities still operate from a "program first" perspective. That is, they view the Community Prevention Grants Program as "just another pot of money" to fund existing or desired program services.

  • Consider systems change initiatives as well as service delivery programs. Systems change initiatives can be powerful approaches for creating positive community change, but are often overlooked in favor of providing direct services. They can include changes in laws (e.g., curfews as in Leadville, Colorado), policies (e.g., discouraging the sale of alcohol at events where youth are present as in Kauai, Hawaii), procedures (e.g., increased information sharing among children and family service providers as in Morgan County, Colorado), or work assignments (e.g., reassigning police officers from a patrol division to a community resource center to work with social service agencies, schools, civic groups, and concerned citizens as in Ponca City, Oklahoma).

  • Draw from prevention strategies that have been shown in reliable research to be effective. It is very tempting to continue doing what has always been done and, for some, a daunting task to identify and examine alternatives.

Developing a comprehensive prevention plan that relies on research-based strategies to address identified risk factors, enhance protective factors, and incorporate systems change initiatives can be a time-consuming process. Often, the relatively short time period between the Title V-sponsored training sessions and the grant application deadline forces communities to rush to develop their plans and, in doing so, rely primarily on traditional program services. Communities having more experience with the concepts of risk- and protection-focused prevention, as well as collaborative planning processes, appear to be more effective in developing comprehensive and responsive plans.

"We stopped thinking in terms of the money, because we have a long-term plan... We're not driven by the money anymore but are driven by the plan."

-- Mayor's Youth Program Coordinator, Hawaii

To help communities with the development of effective delinquency prevention plans, OJJDP will offer future Title V grant applicants the Promising Approaches segment of the Communities That Care training. Promising Approaches is designed to help community teams better match prevention approaches to the unique risk and protective factor profiles of their communities (Developmental Research and Programs, 1999). During this training, community teams learn about prevention programs and system change strategies with demonstrated effectiveness in reducing risk factors while enhancing protective factors, assess the suitability of these programs and strategies for their communities, and finally, create action plans for implementing new programs or enhancing existing resources. Many States agree that Promising Approaches has been the "missing link" between the RRA training and the development of effective delinquency prevention plans.

Exhibit 8

Sample Risk Factors and Community Prevention Approaches

Risk Factor
Prevention Program or Systems Change Approach
Availability of Drugs Community Policy Forums

Community-wide Drug Education

Cambria, PA

Wayne County, NE

Low Neighborhood Attachment and Community Disorganization Community Newsletter and Family Group Activities

Media Mobilization and Asset Mapping

Carter Lake, IA

Fayette County, PA

Extreme Economic Deprivation Computer Classes and "Reverse Mentoring" (youth mentor parents)

Job Training and Skill Development

Ka'u, HI

Erie County, PA

Family Management Problems Family Resource Center

Mothers Resource Project

Parent Training

Middlebury, VT

Alexandria, VA

Rocky Ford, CO

Lack of Commitment to School Wellness Center Support Groups and Coordinator of Student Services

Natural Helpers Peer Support Program

Youth Experiencing Success (YES)

County of Honolulu, HI

Deshutes County, OR

Amelia County, VA

Alienation and Rebelliousness Law-related Education Laztin, UT
Early Initiation of Problem Behavior Second Steps Leadership Program

Get Real About Violence

P.E.T.E.R Conflict Resolution Program

Community/Police Resource Center

Project Encourage

Charleston, MO

Monmouth County, NJ

Ponca, OK

Huntington, WV

Friends who Engage in the Problem Behavior Teen Dances

Power of Choice Video Series

Church Youth Groups

Windsor, VT

Benkelman, NE

Perry County, PA

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