The prevention efforts targeted at limiting youth involvement in gangs is integral to promoting optimal individual and community well-being, specifically in those areas that are susceptible to gang activity. In recent years there has been an emphasis placed on evaluating gang prevention programs to discern effective approaches and providing a more comprehensive approach.
The Comprehensive Gang Model
The Comprehensive Gang Model developed by the OJJDP focuses on community prevention and intervention in balance with law enforcement suppression activities. The model involves five strategies for responding to gang-involved youth and their families. These include:
- Community mobilization, the involvement of local citizens, including former gang members and community groups and agencies, and the coordination of programs and staff functions within and across agencies.
- Opportunities provision, the development of a variety of specific education, training, and employment programs targeting gang-involved youth.
- Social intervention, youth-serving agencies, schools, street outreach workers, grassroots groups, faith-based organizations, law enforcement agencies, and other criminal justice organizations reaching out and acting as links between gang-involved youth and their families, the conventional world, and needed services.
- Suppression, formal and informal social control procedures, including close supervision or monitoring of gang youth by agencies of the criminal justice system and also by community-based agencies, schools, and grassroots groups.
- Organizational change and development, development and implementation of policies and procedures that result in the most effective use of available and potential resources to better address the gang problem. 1
An important facet to implementing the Comprehensive Gang Model in a community is to first assess the youth gang problem. This assessment includes collecting quantitative and qualitative data from community representatives such as law enforcement, school faculty, youth, parents, community leaders, probation officers, gang members, grass roots organizations, and local government. Data collected includes the perception of the gang problem as well as what the community considers as priority needs such as tutoring, jobs training, increased police presence, and mentoring for youth.
Properly assessing a community’s gang problem significantly improves the development of an implementation plan. The plan should include goals and objectives based on the assessment findings and should address the five core strategies previously described. The OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model Guide details the steps required for assessment and provides the necessary data collection tools.
An example of a gang prevention effort that has been widely utilized in the U.S. to promote positive youth development and help rehabilitate youth involved with a gang(s) is mentoring.3 Mentoring works on the foundation that youth benefit from close, enduring, caring relationships with adults.4 By providing adult support and guidance through adolescence, mentoring has been found to provide a range of benefits to both youth and mentors, including the prevention of juvenile delinquency and youth gang involvement. Mentoring is popularly used in school and after school programs, as well as in the broader community.5
While mentoring is a strategy that can be used to enhance positive youth development for all youth, it has also been utilized for rehabilitating youth who are already involved with gangs or the juvenile justice system. The Center for the Advancement for Mentoring held a webinar(link is external) focused on mentoring adjudicated and gang-involved youth for OJJDP Mentoring Grantees. The webinar includes information on common challenges and issues that these youth face (e.g., academic underachievement, limited adult support or engagement, experience with violence and abuse, and restricted availability to mental health services), addresses strategies used by mentoring programs, and provides resources for staff and mentor training. Additional information about mentoring can be found in the mentoring youth topic.
National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention
The National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention (Forum) provides an example of the comprehensive ways communities are addressing gang prevention through larger youth violence prevention efforts. The Forum is a network of communities from across the U.S. that collaborate, share information, and build local capacity to prevent and reduce youth violence. In many cases these violence prevention plans include a focus on gang prevention. Learn more about the Forum and the communities involved and view the Youth Violence Prevention Strategic Planning Toolkit for Communities, a helpful guide for community planning.