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Moving Forward on Gang Prevention: Knowledge and Application

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2008, $399,882)

This project proposes to advance the knowledge and practice of street gang prevention through research that addresses three critical gaps. First, the social psychological and neighborhood context of gang joining that have been neglected in past research are a major focus of this work. A second focus is to develop and test a method of assessing the risk of gang joining, a capacity that is critically needed for focused prevention and early intervention efforts. A third goal is to work with practitioners to translate the empirical and theory-based knowledge into concrete terms that practitioners can use to guide the content of gang-focused prevention efforts and help managers define specific process outcomes. These can provide early feedback on the likely effectiveness of program elements in time for mid stream changes to strengthen long term primary outcomes. Gangs are a critical public policy issue. Their activities have had serious impacts on individuals and neighborhoods. Experts have argued that one way to stem the influence of street gangs on their neighborhoods is to diminish the vitality of the pipeline into the gang by reducing gang joining. However, existing research has been much better at predicting delinquency than gang-joining and the risk factors that have been identified in past research achieve an inadequate level of prediction of gang joining. This situation is mirrored at the program level. Gang prevention efforts are falling short because in practice they are indistinguishable from violence or delinquency reduction programs. The social and group process aspects central to street gangs have not been incorporated into program objectives and gang prevention efforts have been too broadly focused on the many youth who are at risk for delinquency rather than more narrowly focused on the fewer youth at risk for gang-joining. To address these needs, the proposed study will conduct interviews with a representative sample of several hundred youth at varying levels of risk for joining gangs. Full research interviews and brief checklist-type assessments will be administered at two points in time, 18 to 20 months apart to test the hypothesis that the prediction of gang-joining can be improved (relative to past research) by a significant margin. This advance in knowledge will be used to develop and test a brief practitioner-friendly tool to assess risk of gang joining and inform prevention programs. ca/ncf

Date Created: September 23, 2008