OJJDP Convening Focuses on Gang Violence Prevention and Suppression
On October 22–24, 2019, OJJDP hosted a training in Pittsburgh, PA, for grantees in jurisdictions with chronic and emerging gang problems. In general sessions and breakout workshops led by OJJDP staff and other gang experts, a framework was introduced for coordinated action to help communities prevent and reduce street gang violence and crime. Administrator Caren Harp and Associate Administrator James Antal offered opening remarks.
The convening included grantees and representatives from three sites that are implementing an OJJDP fiscal year (FY) 2018 gang suppression initiative—Clark County, NV; Dallas County, TX; and Suffolk County, NY. The initiative supports law enforcement and other community stakeholders in deterring youth from gun and gang violence using proven approaches such as the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model and Group Violence Intervention, formerly known as the Boston Ceasefire model. The initiative is part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Neighborhoods suite of programs.
The most eye-opening takeaway for us was what our priorities should be going forward. We realized that we will have to focus on the logistical part of implementation—forming a steering committee and effective data collection—but that we are also going to have to think outside the box in terms of getting the right key players involved. It was great to meet new people from both the gang suppression and Safe and Thriving Communities initiatives, which created networking and resource-sharing opportunities.
—Nadin-Sarah Salkić, Assistant District Attorney
Gang Unit, Dallas County District Attorney’s Office
In addition, representatives from five sites that are participating in OJJDP’s FY 2017 Safe and Thriving Communities initiative—Anne Arundel County, MD; Cumberland County, NJ; Gary, IN; St. Louis, MO; and Richmond, VA—attended the training to learn more about best practices and evidence-based strategies to carry out the gang-related component of their work. Safe and Thriving Communities supports local efforts to develop prevention, public health, and safety plans to address youth violence. The work encompasses prevention, employment assistance, community development, deterrence, enforcement, and reentry.
The meeting featured several general sessions in which grantees from both OJJDP programs came together to share their successes, challenges, and lessons learned from their anti-gang efforts. These sessions included panel discussions and question-and-answer opportunities as well as presentations by experts on a range of gang-related topics, such as the resources offered by OJJDP’s National Gang Center, the importance of collaboration with juvenile justice system partners, and an overview of the types of street gangs that exist in different regions of the United States.
“OJJDP wanted to provide an opportunity for peer exchange between the two sets of grantees,” said Associate Administrator James Antal. “A major goal for this training was to facilitate networking, peer exchange, and cross-site collaboration.”
The meeting also offered workshops customized to the training needs of each OJJDP grant program. For the gang suppression program, OJJDP and other gang experts provided training on data collection, the development of a strategic action plan, best practices in developing a law enforcement task force, and an overview of the online systems for investigating gang activity.
Grantees from the Safe and Thriving Communities initiative participated in workshops that discussed the influence of social media on gang activity and gang conflict, how to build a communitywide culture that changes norms surrounding violence, strengthening police-community relationships, effective cross-sector approaches to ensure successful youth reentry, and sustainability planning.
At the conclusion of the convening, each grantee collaborated with OJJDP staff and other gang experts to develop short- and long-term action plans. “These plans will be critical to structuring future activity and monitoring program progress,” said Mr. Antal.
For information about research findings on gang activity and gang prevention, read the literature review in OJJDP’s Model Programs Guide. See also the guide’s evaluations of programs that address gang violence and crime.