Using Research To Address Community Needs and Support Communitywide Responses to Juvenile Crime

The major approach underlying most of OJJDP's programs is a combination of community mobilization and community-based strategic planning. Community-based programs present unique challenges in conducting research and evaluation. Tracking the flexible and evolving nature of an intervention as it is implemented can be extremely difficult, as is tracking a program's impact at all levels: individual, family, and community. In addition, many community-based projects lack an available comparison or control group, making an experimental design impossible. A rigorous evaluation, however, can provide important information. Learning about these programs is critical for identifying what works. The Research Division is promoting an array of research and evaluation in this area, thereby contributing to the base of knowledge available to communities throughout the country.4 Projects include:

  • National Evaluation of SafeFutures: Partnerships To Reduce Youth Violence and Delinquency. SafeFutures projects are geared to using a combined approach of prevention, intervention, treatment, and sanctions to reduce youth violence and delinquency. The evaluation is documenting the process of implementation and the impact of these partnerships on youth violence in the targeted communities: Boston, MA; Contra Costa County, CA; Fort Belknap Indian Community, MT; Imperial County, CA; Seattle, WA; and St. Louis, MO.

  • Youth-Focused Community Policing Initiative. A joint project of OJJDP, the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Services, and the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, the Youth-Focused Community Policing (YFCP) initiative is designed to assist local jurisdictions in establishing partnerships and dialog between youth, police, the community, and other local government agencies. YFCP provides communities with the training and technical assistance needed to develop a self-assessment instrument and planning methodology. The initiative will also assist communities in implementing, maintaining, and evaluating delinquency prevention and control strategies. Eight communities received funding to implement YFCP programs: Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Houston, TX; Kansas City, KS; Los Angeles, CA; Mound Bayou, MS; Oakland, CA; and Rio Grande, TX.

  • Evaluation of the Intensive Community-Based Aftercare Demonstration and Technical Assistance Program. This project is testing a model that provides for smooth and effective transitioning of juveniles from secure confinement back into the community. The model has three components: (1) prerelease and preparatory planning while the youth is still incarcerated, (2) structured transition with involvement of both the institution and aftercare staff, and (3) long-term reintegrative services after release. The projects being evaluated are located in Denver, CO; Las Vegas, NV; and Norfolk, VA.

  • Evaluation of Partnerships To Reduce Juvenile Gun Violence. The "Gun Partnership" program is assisting four communities in reducing juveniles' illegal access to guns and addressing why juveniles carry and use guns for violence. Focusing on both individual and community factors, the evaluation will document the process of community mobilization, planning, and collaboration needed to develop a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence involving juveniles in four sites: Baton Rouge, LA; Oakland, CA; Shreveport, LA; and Syracuse, NY.5

  • Evaluation of the Drug-Free Communities Support Program. This project consists of a process and an outcome evaluation of community-based collaborative substance abuse prevention projects that include initiatives that target illegal drugs, alcohol, and/or tobacco use by juveniles and implement comprehensive long-term plans to reduce substance abuse. The process evaluation will look at program implementation in more than 90 sites, with a more indepth look at 12 sites to measure the impact and outcome of program activities.

  • Evaluation of the Combating Underage Drinking Program. This evaluation is examining how States and local communities are using funds from the Combating Underage Drinking Program, a model program designed to curb underage drinking funded by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration. Through OJJDP, individual grants of $360,000 have been made available to the States and the District of Columbia to develop and implement programs that prevent and combat underage drinking. Emphasis is placed on increasing law enforcement activity with regard to the sale of alcohol to minors. In addition, 10 States were awarded discretionary grants to develop and implement comprehensive community strategies targeting underage drinking. In all, 72 States and local communities are implementing programs to combat underage drinking. The evaluation of the Combating Underage Drinking Program will determine how States and local communities are using these funds and evaluate the impact of the first 2 years of the program in a sample of communities.

  • National Evaluation of the Safe Kids/Safe Streets Program. This project (funded jointly with the Violence Against Women Office and the Executive Office for Weed and Seed) is promoting community collaboration to break the cycle of early childhood victimization and later juvenile or adult criminality. One of the project's goals is to develop effective data systems that track at-risk youth (including those who are victims of child abuse and neglect). The evaluation is looking at how communities are forming collaborations and which strategies are working to provide a comprehensive and proactive response to children, adolescents, and their families. The five sites are the National Children's Advocacy Center, Huntsville, AL; Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, MI; Heart of America United Way, Kansas City, MO; Toledo Hospital Children's Medical Center, OH; and Community Network for Children, Youth & Family Services, Chittenden County, VT.

  • Evaluating Restorative Justice Conferences. This is an evaluation of a community-based restorative justice project for young offenders in Indianapolis, IN. Restorative justice conferences -- which bring together the offender, victim, and supporters of each -- provide an opportunity for fuller discussion of the offense; its affect on the victim, the offender's family, and greater community; and steps the offender can take to make amends. This project focuses on juveniles 14 years of age and younger. The evaluation is looking at the offense, the conferencing process, recidivism, and other participant outcomes.

  • Evaluation of Community Assessment Centers. Community assessment centers provide a 24-hour centralized, single point of intake and assessment for juveniles who have or are likely to come into contact with the juvenile justice system. Their primary purpose is to provide earlier and more efficient prevention and intervention services at the front end of the juvenile justice system. The evaluation will look at how communities are planning and implementing these centers in four sites in Colorado and Florida and compare them with more traditional services.

  • Evaluation of the Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP). This national evaluation is looking at whether the goals of this one-to-one mentoring project -- to reduce juvenile delinquency and gang participation by at-risk youth, improve their school performance, and reduce their dropout rate -- are being achieved. This evaluation will be conducted in three cohorts of 41, 52, and 73 projects. The increasing number of projects reflects increases in appropriations from $4 million in fiscal year (FY) 1994 to $12 million in FY 1998 and FY 1999. To follow the FY 1999 cohort, the evaluation will continue through April 2001.

Evaluation of the Juvenile Mentoring Program (JUMP)

Some preliminary findings of the evaluation of JUMP have been highlighted in Juvenile Mentoring Program: 1998 Report to Congress.1

  • JUMP projects have multiple goals, although delinquency prevention, improved school performance, and increased school attendance are most often listed.

  • Community collaboration is a key feature of JUMP projects.

  • In most cases (84 percent), activities in which the mentor and juvenile participate are selected and implemented individually by the pair. About half of the projects also include structured social/recreational activities.

  • Many JUMP projects supplement their core men-toring activities with additional services, such as parent support and self-help groups.

  • Training and supervision are key JUMP project components.

  • The typical JUMP juvenile is 12 to 14 years old (although ages range from 5 to 18). Approximately 50 percent are girls. African-American juveniles make up the majority of those enrolled across all JUMP projects, with white and Hispanic juveniles making up most of the balance.

  • JUMP projects address multiple risk factors. More than half of juveniles come from single-parent households, and only one-quarter live with their biological fathers. Other risk factors include school problems, social/family problems, delinquency (fighting, gangs), substance use, and pregnancy.

  • Mentors represent a wide range of demographic characteristics. Approximately half are white (which differs from the juvenile population). Several projects report efforts to increase African-American and male recruitment. About 90 percent of mentors have some college experience, and more than half have college or graduate degrees.

  • Waiting time for a match is relatively brief -- an average of 2.7 months. Most projects use gender as a match criterion, and many consider race and ethnicity when making the match.

  • Juveniles and mentors view their mentoring experience as positive. Overall, they believe that mentoring helped.

1 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1998, Juvenile Mentoring Program: 1998 Report to Congress, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. For a copy of the Report, call the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse at 800-638-8736.

4Information on the grantees conducting evaluations is found in appendix A.

5For more information on reducing gun violence, see Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1999, Promising Strategies To Reduce Gun Violence, Report, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. This Report can be ordered by calling the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse at 800-638-8736.

OJJDP Research: Making a Difference for Juveniles August 1999