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What Is the Role of Police in Preventing Gang Membership?

Date Published
September 15, 2013

To help prevent kids from joining gangs, law enforcement must move beyond the traditional role as “crime fighter” to become a strong partner in prevention strategies. Because of their knowledge of and presence in the community, law enforcement officers are well-situated to identify those youth at risk of joining gangs at an early age and to play a vital role in efforts to prevent gang-joining, including service referrals.

The Scanning, Analysis, Response and Assessment (SARA) problem-solving model frequently used in law enforcement shares complementary data-driven components with the public health prevention model and can help build initiatives and partnerships to prevent youth from joining gangs.

Law enforcement officers can build trust in communities by playing an active, visible role in front-end gang-prevention activities. Collaborations with other groups — such as schools, public health, community and other public and private partners — to prevent gang-joining increases police legitimacy and credibility, particularly in at-risk communities and among at-risk youth.

In the Spotlight: This chapter features an interview with Joe Mollner, Senior Director of Delinquency and Gang Initiatives for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Read the Changing Course chapter “What Is the Role of Police in Preventing Gang Membership?” by Scott Decker (pdf, 12 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.

Date Created: September 15, 2013