6. Strengthen and Mobilize Communities


Communities play the primary role in preventing juvenile delinquency and the criminal victimization of juveniles. With Federal and State leadership and support, communities can successfully change local conditions to help youth become lawabiding, productive citizens.

All community members -- business leaders, media representatives, teachers, parents and grandparents, young people, policymakers, clergy, elected officials, and law enforcement -- are responsible for ensuring the health and well-being of children. When all members of the community work together to achieve common goals, everyone benefits from the strength of a working partnership. (See figure 21.)

Even medium- and small-scale community mobilization efforts can be effective. The Community Responses to Drug Abuse (CRDA) Initiative, a program researched by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) and designed and implemented by the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), found that modest neighborhoods with limited resources can make significant strides in reducing drug activity, protecting youth, and improving the physical environment.1

Figure 21: Influences on strong youth and strong communities


Source: OJJDP Internal Working Group, 1995.

The Subgroup on Violence and Place of the Interdepartmental Working Group on Violence summarized the advantage of using the community as a frame of reference to solve the problem of violence in the following manner:

Using community as a unit of analysis shifts attention from individual incidents of crime as such (the undifferentiated categories of murder, assault, drug trafficking, etc.), and generalized responses (law enforcement, gun control, drug interdiction, stiff sentences) to local dynamics, local impact, and local opportunities. [Community analysis] suggests that the fear caused by violence is as much a problem as violence itself; that local responses can successfully fight the drivers of violence (street gun and drug markets). It emphasizes the power and potential of local resources, local alliances, and local experiments in violence prevention. 2

This section describes why strong communities are critical to reducing delinquency and violence and provides fundamental elements essential to successful community change. It also presents examples of efforts that prove community mobilization strategies work.

Current Status and Analysis of the Problem

Community Deterioration

Earlier sections of this Action Plan describe categories of risk factors that research has shown can contribute to juvenile delinquency. They include individual, family, peer, school, and community factors. Community risk factors include the availability of drugs and firearms, community laws and norms favorable to drug use, the nature and extent of crime, media portrayals of violence, neighborhood transition and mobility, reduced interaction among residents causing community disassociation, and economic deprivation.

Community life has changed significantly in recent decades, resulting in a decline in essential youth nurturing, supervision, and guidance. In many instances, the deterioration of the community has isolated parents and their children from the network and support of extended families, and fear of children has replaced fear for children.3

Poverty exacerbates social disorganization and is both a source of stress and a risk factor for communities, individuals, and families. In 1992, 22 percent of youth lived below the poverty level, a 42 percent increase since 1976. Poverty rates are higher among children under age 6 (25 percent) than among older youth (19 percent). Poverty is also higher among minority youth, particularly African Americans (47 percent) and Hispanics (40 percent), than among white youth (17 percent). Youth growing up in inner cities are most likely to live in poverty.4

Historically, government has responded to youth problems by providing services to address the symptoms, often resulting in inefficient use of scarce resources. Children labeled as delinquent enter the correctional system, which has been unable to pay attention to underlying family and other problems. Youth intervention agencies identify some children as abused, neglected, or dependent, remove them from their homes, and place them in foster care, but the agencies fail or are unable to provide preventive family support or mental health services. Some children with mental health needs are placed in secure psychiatric settings with little opportunity for treatment in community-based, family-oriented programs.5

This fragmented human services system does not serve anyone effectively -- youth, families, or communities. The system is expensive; it often fails to solve youth's problems; and youth are referred from agency to agency with little followup. Comprehensive and targeted collaborative efforts can more effectively assess the needs of at-risk youth, implement promising strategies, and maximize community resources.6

Effective and Promising Strategies and Programs

Although evaluation has not yet proved the effectiveness of efforts to produce positive and lasting community change, several community-building strategies appear to be promising. A communitywide approach to reducing violence and delinquency is promising for several reasons. First, it affects the entire social environment by focusing on community norms, values, and policies as well as on conditions that place children at risk for adolescent problems. Second, all members of the community can apply their expertise where it is most effective. Community mobilization holds the promise of investing every local resident in solving what is truly a shared goal -- to help young people grow up to maximize their potential and reduce their likelihood of involvement in violence and delinquency. Federal and State governments can assist communities by showing them the most effective ways to tap into fiscal and human resources.

Community planning teams that include a partnership of agency and lay participants can help create a consensus on priorities and services to be provided. They also build support for a comprehensive approach that draws on all sectors of the community for participation, such as the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems; other service systems such as health and mental health, child welfare, education, assisted housing providers, recreation, and law enforcement; business; media; religious institutions; and grassroots organizations, including parent groups, youth clubs, crime victim groups, and civic and social groups.

The Department of Justice's (DOJ's) Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) supports the concept of successful community policing through close, mutually beneficial ties between police and community members. COPS uses a long-term problemsolving approach that targets persistent or recurring problems in communities. One of the key COPS components is enhanced communications among police, the community, and other public and social service agencies. The community must be viewed as an active partner with law enforcement in identifying problems and determining appropriate tactics and measures of success.

In the Texas City Action Plan To Prevent Crime (T-CAP),7 NCPC worked with seven municipal governments, local leaders, private entities, and citizens to adopt and implement strategies to reduce violence. Through this partnership, the initiative has accomplished the following:

In 1989, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) provided funding to establish the CRDA National Demonstration Program in 10 sites across the country. The purpose of the program was to help communities develop and implement effective strategies to reduce drug abuse and improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. A process and impact evaluation funded by NIJ identified a number of positive changes in target areas compared with control areas. The evaluation found that local organizations in these neighborhoods, assisted by NCPC and the National Training and Information Center, could successfully develop and implement a wide variety of anti-drug strategies.

Many of these strategies involved cooperative efforts with law enforcement workers who helped community organizations increase levels of citizen awareness and participation in anti-drug activities. These community interventions also resulted in increased social interaction among residents, favorable attitudes toward the police, and positive perceptions about their neighborhood as a safe place to live. The CRDA program also helped grassroots organizations develop partnerships with criminal justice agencies, fire and housing departments, city councils, school boards, and recreation departments.

One of the key CRDA projects was the Oakland (CA) Community Organization. Residents learned to work in partnership with law enforcement, which resulted in increased funding for the police department's Beat Health Unit. Beat Health has been directly responsible for mobilizing residents to take direct action in drug abuse prevention, organizing a neighborhood cleanup, and closing more than 300 drug houses.8

Community Assessment

The public health model of youth violence prevention encourages a partnership of community leaders to determine their community's readiness for a comprehensive risk-focused prevention effort and to identify or create a community prevention board. The board assesses the community's risks and existing resources by collecting data on risk indicators and analyzing existing programs. With this information, the community board prioritizes risk factors, identifies programming gaps, and reviews effective approaches to address high-priority risk factors.

With a complete community assessment, the board can develop a strategic plan to implement and evaluate a comprehensive risk-reduction strategy tailored to the unique risk and resource profile of its community. Such a strategy includes helping communities reduce critical risk factors; helping youth develop protective factors such as healthy beliefs, clear standards for behavior, and skills for economic self-sufficiency; or implementing a combination of both approaches.

The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's (OJJDP's) Title V Initiative, Local Incentive Grants for Delinquency Prevention Programs (Title V Initiative), provides an example of effective resource allocation combined with training. During 1994, the Title V Initiative distributed grants to 49 States and 6 Territories to promote local momentum and attract local financial and human resources. Nearly 2,500 local participants attended OJJDP-sponsored training sessions and learned how to implement an effective prevention planning framework, design new approaches to interagency collaboration, and conduct valuable risk and resource assessments.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has funded several promising pilot programs based on the public health model through its Maternal and Child Health Block Grants. The Communities That Care process formalizes the public health model into a tool for mobilizing communities to address issues of delinquency, violence, substance abuse, school dropout, and teen pregnancy.

Youth Involvement

Many young people feel a deep sense of alienation and disconnection from their own communities, contributing to a lack of self-esteem. Youth need opportunities to establish their self-worth and receive affirmation of their place and role within the community. Adult leaders often fail to tap into essential youth skills, such as problemsolving and decisionmaking, that can effectively change conditions and attitudes within a community.

Adults must recognize that youth have a stake in their communities and need to be substantially involved in addressing community problems, particularly juvenile violence and victimization.

Youth involvement has two beneficiaries: the community benefits from the high energy and creative talents of young people, and young people benefit from the critical realization that they can make positive differences in their community. Many community programs attribute their success to activities designed to help youth realize that they are valuable to their families and communities and to convey a sense of respect and pride in the positive contributions that youth can make.9

Communities should initiate activities and services that help youth resist violence and develop skills to mediate conflicts peacefully. They should take steps to help youth replace their mistrust toward the law and law enforcement with a sense of trust and a willingness to cooperate. The Youth as Resources Program, operated by NCPC, is an example of a program with strong youth and community involvement. Guided by a board of local leaders, including youth, young people take active roles in planning, implementing, and managing community service projects. The program, which began in 3 Indiana cities, has spread to more than 35 sites in 17 States and abroad.10

Neighborhood-Targeted and Place-Based Strategies

Strategies that benefit communities include those that foster a return to the informal social control once provided by stay-at-home neighbors and senior citizens, who would "watch over" their neighborhoods and their neighbors' children. Programs that encourage informal community involvement and emphasize community partnerships with law enforcement and social service agencies can strengthen a community's ability to serve as its own guardian. A good example is found in community oriented policing strategies, which seek to give law enforcement a highly visible presence in communities and build positive relationships with residents. These community-based programs, which promote police-community partnerships to solve problems that lead to crime, have proven to be successful in fostering this kind of neighborhood responsibility.

Private initiatives funded by foundations have taken the lead in supporting communitywide and neighborhood-based strategies. Over the years, national foundations such as Ford, Rockefeller, McArthur, Robert Wood Johnson, Clark, Casey, and Carnegie have supported these programs. These programs have reached out to the corporate and business sectors that have been supportive in enhancing their success.

The Administration's Empowerment Zone and Enterprise Community initiative applies the principles of community mobilization to neighborhood economic development strategies. Other examples of place-based violence prevention strategies include the Office of Justice Programs' (OJP's) Operation Weed and Seed, the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD's) Public Housing Drug Elimination Program, the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention's (CSAP's) Community Partnerships, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) violence prevention projects.

Operation Weed and Seed "weeds out" violent crime, gang activity, drug use, and drug trafficking in targeted high-crime neighborhoods, and then "seeds" the area by restoring social and economic revitalization. In many areas, Operation Weed and Seed has reduced crime, fear, and violence, and helped communities develop innovative planning and organizational strategies to address neighborhood problems.

HUD's Public Housing Drug Elimination Program has encouraged cooperative working relationships among housing authorities, law enforcement, and tenants to enhance local resident control and accountability for buildings, conditions, and responsible tenancy.

Local/Federal Partnerships

Federal agencies can collaborate as partners in local efforts to improve communities. Key to the success of a Federal/local partnership is a willingness to compromise and sustain involvement over time. Agencies must be prepared to allow flexibility and leeway in decisionmaking and in framing local initiatives.

In the Pulling America's Communities Together (PACT) program, Federal representatives of the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Labor have worked with Atlanta, GA; Denver, CO; the District of Columbia; and the State of Nebraska to coordinate efforts to reduce community violence by building healthier communities. Through NCPC, the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, and Developmental Research and Programs, Inc., BJA and OJJDP have provided technical assistance to the PACT program.

As a result of these partnerships, PACT has stimulated cooperation among many agencies that have no prior history of collaboration, providing a comprehensive framework for community leaders to address the problem of violence. It has also produced innovative local actions, often beyond traditional jurisdictional boundaries, to prevent and reduce violence.

Training and Resource Utilization

Community leaders need to know how and where to target and generate local resources. They also gain from establishing mechanisms that sustain linkages among local resources. A number of Federal agencies, ranging from HUD's Office of Public and Indian Housing to CSAP, have developed training programs and clearinghouses to support efforts to identify and sustain resources. AmeriCorps and other service-oriented initiatives provide information about human resource opportunities. OJJDP has established a Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Training and Technical Assistance Center. These agencies are complemented by a host of private nonprofit agencies that have strong records of success in supporting local mobilization efforts. (See Appendix C.)

OJJDP's Title V Initiative, described earlier, not only provides a sound strategy for assessing risk and protective factors but is an example of effective resource utilization combined with training. The program encourages communities to pool delinquency prevention resources and systems in several ways. First, by developing comprehensive needs assessments and objectives, grantees enable communities to make more effective use of local prevention funds. Second, grantees must match at least 50 percent of the Federal award with State or local funds or in-kind services, thus stimulating local public and private funding. Third, local leaders must develop and implement comprehensive, community-based Title V initiatives and gain support from key leaders from the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. Finally, the Title V Initiative encourages existing prevention coalitions and programs to expand to delinquency prevention programming, thereby enhancing the effectiveness and scope of community systems.

To support the effective use of Title V Initiative funds, OJJDP makes available a two-phase training program on risk-focused prevention to local leaders and community planning teams. During 1994, nearly 2,500 local participants attended OJJDP training sessions and learned how to implement an effective planning framework, design new approaches to interagency collaboration, and conduct valuable risk and resource assessments. These communities are joining forces to aggressively address their juvenile violence and delinquency problems.11

Information Sharing

Newsletters, bulletins, computer linkages, and other vehicles for sharing information can generate action as well as convey critical information. Information sharing can identify programs that are founded on successful strategies. However, rather than reproducing successful programs, communities must adapt the underlying strategies to their own structure and needs. Experience suggests that methods and strategies are more transferable than programs and more portable than institutions. Sharing information about the results of successful strategies is vital not only to publicizing successful models but also to encouraging communities to set realistic program goals and devise useful evaluation mechanisms.

Outcomes: Short- and Long-Term Successes

Tackling the complex problem of juvenile delinquency will not necessarily produce immediate results. Long-term successes are usually built on a layered foundation of many short-term efforts and successes. Short-term objectives, when successfully met, create confidence and generate energy and enthusiasm toward working on the longer term issues. They also help develop skills and capacities that will be valuable in working on more complex long-term goals.

Federal Action Steps

Support Concentrated Strategies To Improve Distressed Neighborhoods and Reduce Violence Citywide

The Federal Government will support community efforts to assess and identify local needs, resources, and priorities in order to identify and respond to the needs of high-risk youth and juvenile offenders. Federal agencies will continue to support community mobilization models such as the Title V Initiative, Comprehensive Communities Program, Project PACT, National Funding Collaborative on Violence Prevention, Operation Weed and Seed, and Hope VI public housing Urban Revitalization Grants.

NIJ will continue to support evaluations of Operation Weed and Seed. The Administration will continue to support Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities as an economic model for concentrating resources on and strategically planning action for distressed urban areas.

CDC, through its Community Demonstration Grants, and OJJDP, through its Title V Initiative grant program, will help communities design and implement multifaceted juvenile delinquency and violence prevention programs.

Link Federal and Private Initiatives at the Community Level

Improving the coordination of comprehensive community-based efforts to prevent crime is critical. OJJDP's SafeFutures program will provide funding to six jurisdictions that create exemplary public-private partnerships in the areas of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention, demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to strengthen the juvenile justice system, and provide a continuum of services and sanctions. It will also establish technology and protocols to replicate its successes in other jurisdictions.

Other Federal agencies, including the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and Education will join with the Corporation for National Service (CNS) and private agencies to provide training and technical assistance to SafeFutures communities.

The President's Crime Prevention Council will provide small grants in support of community efforts to develop comprehensive plans to assess neighborhood-based programs, ensure a continuum of responses to youth problems (violence, delinquency, drug use, gangs, and teen pregnancy), and coordinate or integrate service delivery and funding.

In support of creating these linkages, OJJDP has disseminated the Matrix of Community-Based Initiatives to inform communities about existing sites with successful public and private comprehensive, community-based strategies to prevent violence and strengthen economic development. The report provides a broad narrative description of each major initiative, a local contact, and a contact within the Federal department or the foundation that can provide additional information.12

Advance the Public Health Approach to Assessing and Reducing Violence in Communities

OJJDP will continue to widely disseminate its Guide for Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders and will continue to make available timely research findings and program strategies to help communities understand the issues surrounding youth violence, including the use of firearms, and potential responses to these problems.

CDC will distribute guidelines on violence prevention and intervention to communities to help them develop their own violence prevention programs. As part of this dissemination strategy, CDC will disseminate proceedings from a National Conference on Violence on issues such as domestic violence, suicide, violence in the workplace, and youth violence.

Hold Satellite Video Teleconferences To Share Information on Delinquency Prevention and Juvenile Justice Programs

OJJDP has begun a series of video teleconferences to permit local officials, juvenile justice and delinquency prevention practitioners, and others to share a wide range of promising strategies. The teleconferences provide information about training and technical assistance, discuss principles of prevention and intervention, and address techniques for implementing successful juvenile justice reform.

The first teleconference focused on community planning, mobilization, and coordination of services as a followup to OJJDP's Title V Risk-Focused Prevention Training Program. Subsequent teleconferences concentrate on delinquency reduction topics, including proven programs that address serious, violent, and chronic juvenile offenders; community policing; boot camps; truancy reduction; mentoring; and conflict resolution.

Encourage Youth and Adults To Contribute to the Safety of Their Communities

CNS provides opportunities for youth and adults to become involved in violence reduction activities through programs such as AmeriCorps, Learn and Serve America, and JustServ.

AmeriCorps' VISTA, a CNS program, will continue to assist men and women age 18 and older who commit themselves to helping low-income people with neighborhood safety and revitalization through employment training, housing, literacy, and health education.

The National Senior Service Corps will continue to draw on the skills, talents, and experiences of older Americans to address community needs through the Foster Grandparent Program, the Senior Companion Program, and the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program.

HUD's Heinz Neighborhood Development Program will continue to assist neighborhood groups in organizing and improving their environments.

Improve the Existing Communications Infrastructure and Utilize State-of-the-Art Technology To Share Information

OJJDP is expanding JUVJUST, an electronic list service that will facilitate the sharing of information on juvenile violence reduction. It will supplement efforts such as the Partnerships Against Violence Network (PAVNET), the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, OJJDP's online information on reducing youth gun violence, and HHS' PrevLine. PAVNET is a coalition of Federal agencies (Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, and Labor) that integrates data and resources, removing barriers to information sharing. It provides an online search and retrieval system; a printed directory of programs, technical assistance resources, and funding sources; networking among Federal clearinghouses and resource centers; and an Internet mail group.

OJJDP will also provide local jurisdictions with an interactive CD-ROM program through which they can obtain information about implementing programs and strategies that can be effective in reducing youth violence. The interactive nature of CDROM technology will enable local users to apply the forms and protocols, risk assessment information, and research and guiding principles provided on diskette to strategies that address local needs.

Establish a Center That Coordinates Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Training and Technical Assistance

OJJDP has established and will continue to support a Training Center to provide an inventory of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention training and technical assistance resources and to establish a resource data base.

OJJDP will also conduct needs assessments that will support new training and technical assistance program development and implement specialized training, including training of trainers.

Promote Federal and Other Joint Funding

DOJ will publicize and promote funding efforts with other Federal agencies and other public-private funding sources and encourage joint funding of efforts to prevent juvenile delinquency.

Suggestions for State and Local Action


1. Rosenbaum, D.P., et al. 1994. Community Responses to Drug Abuse: A Program Evaluation. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.

2. Interdepartmental Working Group on Violence. 1994. Violence: Report to the President and Domestic Policy Council. Washington, D.C.

3. Anderson, E. 1990. Street Wise: Race, Class, and Change in an Urban Community. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

Jencks, C. 1992. Rethinking Social Policy: Race, Poverty, and the Underclass. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Merry, S.E. 1981. Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers. Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press.

Wilson, W.J. 1987. The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

4. Snyder, H., and M. Sickmund. 1995 (August). Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

5. Howell, J.C., ed. 1995 (May). Guide to Implementing the Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

6. Wilson, J.J., and J.C. Howell. 1993. Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. Program Summary. Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

7. Taking the Offensive To Prevent Crime: How Seven Cities Did It. 1994 (April). Washington, D.C.: National Crime Prevention Council.

8. Rosenbaum et al. 1994.

9. Interdepartmental Working Group on Violence. 1994.

10. Changing Perspectives: Youth As Resources. 1990. Washington, D.C.: National Crime Prevention Council.

11. 1994 Report to Congress: Title V Incentive Grants for Local Delinquency Prevention Programs. 1995 (March). Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

12. Matrix of Community-Based Initiatives. 1995 (May). Washington, D.C.: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice.

Contents | Foreword | Acknowledgments | Introduction | Summary
Figures | Objectives | Conclusion | Appendixes