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Evaluation of SACSI in Winston-Salem: Engaging the Community in a Strategic Analysis of Youth Violence

NCJ Number
202977
Date Published
Author(s)
Allen, Marcus; Easterling, Doug; Harvey, Lynn; Mac-Thompson, Donald
Annotation
This report presents the results of an evaluation of Winston-Salem's Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative (SACSI) project, funded by the Department of Justice in 1998, which addresses the problem of youth violence in Winston-Salem.
Abstract
SACSI is a collaborative strategic-planning model designed to help communities find and implement effective strategies for combating their most pressing crime issues. In 1999, Winston-Salem, NC, received funding to implement its initiative to address the issue of youth violence in the community. The initiative was implemented according to a five-step process: establish a working group committed to addressing the issue of youth violence; gather information about the local crime problem; design a strategic intervention to tackle the problem; implement the intervention; and assess and modify the strategy as the data reveal effects. Initial research results indicated that the youth-violence problem was confined to a relatively small proportion of the community's young persons. In 1998, 140 juveniles (less than one-fourth of 1 percent of the city's juvenile population) accounted for the city's juvenile violence. Of these, 32 were repeat violent offenders. Over half of the 140 youth were under probation supervision, and the other half had had frequent contacts with the police. The research also revealed that not only was the youth violence concentrated among specific individuals, but in specific neighborhoods of Winston-Salem as well. Additional findings revealed a pattern of violent offending in Winston-Salem: juveniles were often brought into a life of violence by adults; many of the juveniles arrested for violent crimes had a prior history of lesser offenses; many violent offenders had psychological and/or emotional disabilities; and much of the juvenile violence occurred in a limited number of identifiable "hot spots." Findings also revealed how the existing system contributed to the problem of youth violence: limited consequences for violent offending; lack of social support for juveniles and their families; problems with education and job training; and lack of coordination of services. A comprehensive, focused strategy was developed to address the major underlying factors identified by the research process. A "stop-the-violence" message is delivered to juvenile offenders, and adult offenders who involve juveniles in their criminal activity, during Notification sessions with the Winston-Salem Police Department. The enforcement message is tempered with an offering of supportive resources to those youth who indicate a willingness to change. Operation Reach was created as a follow-up to the Notification sessions and includes reinforcement of the notification message and reiteration of offers of support and assistance. The evaluation of the Winston-Salem initiative was designed to assess how the initiative operated with regard to both the overall SACSI process and the two key program strategies, Notification and Operation Reach. Results of the evaluation indicate that SACSI succeeded in bringing together a diverse set of agency representatives and community members who have conducted a cohesive, focused process of problem solving around the issue of youth violence. The evaluation found that Notification and Operation Reach each had definite strengths, particularly with regard to the active participation of multiple agencies, yet each program also has room to grow. The analysis of re-offending and neighborhood crime statistics show mixed results with regard to the initiative. At least one-fifth of the persons notified subsequently committed at least one violent act. On the other hand, neighborhood-level statistics suggest that violence was somewhat lower in the targeted neighborhoods, particularly for robbery. Subsequent evaluations will be needed to determine if the changes are normal fluctuations in neighborhood-level offending patterns, or if SACSI has had a real effect on the issue of youth violence. The report includes a set of recommendations designed to improve the overall effectiveness of the initiative. These include: 1) adopt a reasonable model of behavior change to guide the development of strategies; 2) be more strategic in the choice of leverage points that could produce behavior change; and 3) maintain the culture of strategic thinking that distinguishes SACSI from more traditional collaborative problem-solving efforts. Tables and figures
Date Created: December 9, 2003