Public health and public safety workers who respond to gang problems know that after-the-fact efforts are not enough. An emergency department doctor who treats a gang-related gunshot wound or a law enforcement officer who must tell a mother that her son has been killed in a drive-by shooting are likely to stress the need for prevention and the complementary roles that public health and law enforcement must play in stopping violence before it starts.
The importance of preventing gang involvement among youth motivated NIJ and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to join forces to create Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership. The NIJ-CDC partnership drew on each agency’s distinctive strengths: (1) NIJ’s commitment to enhancing justice and increasing public safety and (2) CDC’s dedication to health promotion and prevention of violence, injury and disability. By combining perspectives, lessons and evidence from public safety and public health, NIJ and CDC provide new insights into the complex problems of gangs and gang membership.
A significant proportion of local, state and federal budgets — in health, criminal justice, law enforcement and community services — is dedicated to dealing with gang-joining and its consequences after it has occurred. Preventing kids from joining gangs in the first place holds great promise for long-term reductions in violence and crime and the “downstream” societal problems that stem from gang activities.
Read the Introduction to Changing Course (pdf, 6 pages).
About This Article
This article presents a chapter summary from the joint National Institute of Justice and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publication Changing Course: Preventing Gang Membership (pdf, 166 pages). Changing Course features chapters written by some of the nation’s top criminal justice and public health researchers. The volume was edited by Thomas R. Simon, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Nancy M. Ritter, National Institute of Justice, Reshma R. Mahendra, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.