I. A National Strategy for Juvenile Delinquency Prevention
The juvenile violent crime arrest rate declined 12 percent from 1994 to 1996. More notable was a 31 percent drop in juvenile arrests for murder that occurred over the 3-year period 1993 to 1996, despite increases in the juvenile population (Snyder, 1997). These encouraging data suggest that the wave of juvenile violence that the United States has experienced over the last decade may be subsiding. Moreover, they demonstrate that projections of a doubling in juvenile arrests for violent crime by the year 2010 were not destiny, but rather represented a wake up call-warning the Nation of the need to take action to reverse alarming trends in juvenile crime and violence.
While the arrest data signal hope for the future, there is still much work to be done. Despite the recent drops, the numbers and rates of juvenile arrests for violent crimes remain significantly higher than the levels reported in the late 1980's (Snyder, 1997). Equally important, the factors that place youth at risk of engaging in violent crime (such as child abuse and neglect and the availability of firearms) still exist in our homes and communities. To ensure that violent juvenile crime continues to drop in the future, we need to continue using comprehensive prevention, early intervention, and graduated sanctions programs to strengthen our families, provide youth with opportunities to succeed, and hold juvenile offenders accountable for their actions.
In recent years, Federal, State, and local governments have moved to control juvenile crime and violence and protect the public through an integrated approach to dealing with juvenile crime -- one that includes both comprehensive prevention programs and accountability-based sanctions. Many States have promoted a continuumof prevention programs and accountability-based graduated sanctions that correspond to the offenders' treatment needs, severity of offense, and offense history (National Criminal Justice Association, 1997). These efforts have been designed to provide immediate and appropriate community responses to juvenile problem behaviors and juvenile crime. In addition, since 1992, nearly all States have adopted or modified laws to facilitate the prosection of serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders in the adult criminal justice system (Parent, Dunworth, McDonald, & Rhodes, 1997; Torbet, Gable, Hurst, Montgomery, Szymanski, & Thomas, 1996).1
Research indicates that such an integrated approach holds the greatest promise for reducing juvenile crime and delinquency (National Criminal Justice Association, 1997; Parent, Dunworth, McDonald, & Rhodes, 1997). A study of juvenile crime reduction strategies in California, for example, suggests that if existing strategies to control crime through increased incarceration were coupled with comprehensive prevention programs, the level of crime reduction achieved would roughly double (Greenwood, Model, Rydell, & Chiesa, 1996). Increasingly, States are moving to develop legislation and adopt approaches that incorporate a range of prevention and control components.
To help State-level policymakers and local practitioners design and implement effective strategies and programs, OJJDP developed the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders (Wilson & Howell, 1993). The Comprehensive Strategy provides a research-based framework for combating juvenile crime that incorporates two components: (1) targeting prevention efforts at youth at risk of engaging in delinquency and crime, and (2) improving the juvenile justice system's response to delinquent offenders through a system of graduated sanctions and treatment alternatives. Together, delinquency prevention programs, early intervention, and graduated sanctions provide a "continuum of care" designed to both prevent and interrupt the progression of delinquent and criminal careers.
The Comprehensive Strategy promotes a systematic approach to crime reduction that draws on the basic principles of the public health model. According to this model, we must identify the root causes of juvenile crime and then implement a range of programs and services to prevent delinquency from occurring in the first place. If offenses still occur, we must use a full range of sanctions to defuse and control the conduct at the earliest opportunity. By coming at the problem of juvenile crime and delinquency from the perspectives of public safety, accountability, and care and concern for every child-through both prevention and delinquency control-we can achieve the greatest success in enhancing positive youth development and reducing juvenile crime.
As more States and communities develop and implement long-term, comprehensive crime reduction strategies, the demand for information about the root causes of juvenile crime and effective delinquency prevention strategies continues to grow. To help meet this demand, OJJDP has supporteddelinquency research that has helped shape prevention and juvenile justice programming at all levels. The Office's Program of Research on the Causes and Correlates of Juvenile Delinquency, for example, has produced numerous findings about the factors that predict juvenile delinquency and the developmental pathways that juvenile offenders follow in becoming delinquents and career criminals. The Office's Study Group on Serious and Violent Juvenile (SVJ) Offenders has produced a ground-breaking report that links risk factors for serious and violent juvenile crime to successful prevention and intervention programs. Specific findings from these research efforts are presented in the second section of this chapter.
The Title V Community Prevention Grants Program supports the prevention aspect of the Comprehensive Strategy's continuum of care by helping State and local jurisdictions translate this research into prevention practice. The 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. With training and technical assistance to develop local plans, and seed funding to begin to implement plans over a 3-year period, communities are empowered to develop and implement 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 the best research available to date.
The next section of this chapter provides an overview of the Community Prevention Grants Program that describes the program's key principles, its risk- and protection-focused approach to prevention, its structure, and OJJDP's national evaluation of program implementation and outcomes.
1. Research has shown that a small percentage of our Nation's youth are involved in delinquent activities and an even smaller percentage of hardened, violent, youthful offenders are responsible for a large majority of juvenile crime. According to Federal Bureau of Investigation data, 6 percent of all juveniles (i.e., youth ages 10 to 17) were arrested in 1994. Of those, 7 percent were arrested for a violent offense. Thus, less than one-half of 1 percent of all juveniles in the U.S. were arrested for a violent offense in 1994 (Snyder, Sickmund, & Poe-Yamagata, 1996). Data for 1995 and 1996 indicate the same low, overall arrest rate of less than one-half of 1 percent of all juveniles ages 10 to 17 (Snyder, 1997).
1997 Report to Congress: Title V Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs