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Addressing the issue of gangs with in the community.
The issue of gangs with in our communities is complex. Current literature contends that the best way to address the issue of gangs is to create community based comprehensive strategies, which incorporate prevention, intervention and suppression techniques. The comprehensive Gang model provides communities with well-known strategies to address the issue of gangs. Utilization of the model, collaboration and public awareness, will create the best platform for communities to combat this issue. Through this process communities will become more cohesive, stronger and healthier for future generations.
Effective anti-gang programs are developed through the adaption of The Comprehensive Gang Model which was created in 1974, by The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Originally the models framework focused on three main areas, prevention, intervention and suppression. Through more intensive focusing efforts the model now consists of five core strategies; community mobilization, Opportunities provision, Social intervention, Suppression, and Organizational change/development. (Justice, 2007 )
Communities are encouraged to identify target problems, create specific programing goals and collaborate with other community agencies in order to address the issue of gangs. This recommendation comes from the National Gang Centre, where they focus on reducing gang related violence and offences through research and education. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
Both the National Gang Centre and The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Office identify that effective programs to combat gangs focus on mitigating risk factors among youth. Risk factors associated with gang involvement are grouped into 5 domains; individual characteristics, family conditions, school experiences/performance, peer group influences, and community connections. Risk factors within the domains which can predict early gang involvement include; prior delinquency (violence and alcohol/drug use), family relationships characterized by conflict and problematic parent-child relations; low school attachment/achievement; involvement in delinquent peer group; and living in neighborhoods which tend to have high rates of troubled youth. The greater the number of risk factors a youth exhibits, particularly if they occur across numerous domains, the more likely the youth is to become involved in a gang. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
Best practices, as described by the National Institute of Justice highlights the practice of mentoring, targeted truancy intervention and hot spot policing as effective solutions to prevent, intervene and suppress gangs. (National Institute of Justice , 2014)
As earlier stated mentorship programs have proven to be a best practice method of prevention, targeting children or youth who exhibit risk factors associated with pre-gang involvement. The Big Brothers, Big Sisters mentorship program established in 1904, is one of the most recognized youth mentorship programs available. Mentors are paired with a youth who may be at risk due to a variety of issues (family functioning, poverty, and lack of appropriate adult relationships). Big Brothers, Big Sisters Canada’s, annual report illustrates how their program mitigates risk factors and increases protective factors among youth. Statistical analysis reports; 80% of recipients peruse healthy life choices,92% feel confident and 98% report they make good life choices. Improvements have been reported in the overall mental health, level of civic engagement and employment status of participants. The Big Brothers, Big Sisters program is an ideal program designed to keep young people engaged in making positive choices. Mentors can be involved in areas such as school, family and community. Due to this program being a volunteer program it offers an element of community cohesion as the mentor and youth could live within the same community. The program is intended to be non-intrusive, and could fill a gap between service providers by offering mentorship to young people who may or may not be identified as high risk yet.
Programs which prove effective will encourage the development of multiple protective factors such as school achievement, positive family functioning and increased involvement in community programs. By increasing opportunities to engage in prosocial situations it allows the young person to develop positive relations with peers and adults. These programs are generally structured and supervised, reinforcing the importance of structure within a young person’s life. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
Programs provided by Boys and Girls Club of Canada have proven to be effective in multiple areas of community based prevention. Offering programs designed for high risk children/youth, as well as programs for youth who may already be involved in a gang or have a criminal record. Boys and Girls Clubs offer a supportive environment within the community. Trained staff provide a variety of different program options both structures and unstructured for children and youth between the ages of 6-21. (Kerr, 2011)
Programs which are designed with an intended focus on the Comprehensive Gang Model have a proven success rate. This model is effective at addressing the issue of gangs because they place such as importance on preventing gangs. The model provides a very flexible framework for communities to address the issue, it also incorporates a wraparound approach for service providers. Wraparound approach involves all service providers working together on common goals to improve the community, this will reduce duplication of service and increase the effectiveness of current programs. It will provide the opportunity to address risks within multiple domains such as school, family and peer relations. This is effective because it allows service providers to come together, communicate and understand youth who may have complex needs in multiple areas. Offering a continuum of services is another effective method promoted by the Comprehensive Gang Model, not giving up on those who have chosen the gang life and being able to offer them an alternative is important. Providing employment counselling, career planning and goal setting may give some hope that they can do something different. (Justice, 2007 )
The community’s role in addressing the issue of gangs is important. The more involved and invested the community is the more effective the program will be. Community associations should be involved in the planning and implementing of programs. Not only can community associations provide a cost efficient solution to program venues it’s also a great place to recruit volunteers. Gangs effect entire communities, not only groups with in communities, therefore it should be managed in such a way that involves the whole community. Increasing community capacity through offering programs at all levels of need, promoting community events and encouraging community involvement will reduce gang involvement overtime. When community members become involved and invested in community safety, they will be more willing to address issues with police and communicate with service providers. Parents/families that are involved in their community and understand the risks associated with gangs, will be better able to address those risks and more willing to reach out for help if necessary. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
A policing strategy to address the issue of gangs works best in conjunction with other agencies. Promoting a team environment will be the most efficient use of time and resources. Non-profit agencies who provide programing to the community may be able to aide in the creation of trusting relationships between police and community members. Becoming involved in the community programs and being visible at community events will increase the community’s positive connection to towards police and will likely increase their willingness to cooperate with investigations in the future. In recent years there has been a significant change in the way police operate in that they are emphasizing community policing as a primary approach to address crime. Law enforcement agencies understand the importance of connecting to their community and establishing/maintaining relationships, with both targeted individuals and the greater community. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
When deciding on what strategies to implement within the community, having clear, defined and measurable goals will assist in the planning. Some goals will address current issues, while others will focus on the prevention of issues. Development of a plan which includes long and short term strategies to address gangs from all three dimensions of prevention, intervention and suppression is an ideal approach. Long term strategies focusing on prevention will serve as the best option to reduce gang involvement overtime. Long term strategies are considered to be the best option for a few reasons, able to address risk factors of an entire community long term, because the goals being set will also need to be maintained. The implementation of long term planning also significantly reduces the financial and social costs associated with crisis situations (police, incarceration, and courts, exc.). Studies indicate that addressing crime or any social ill from a reactive position will cost more and do little for future deterrence. Continued efforts designed to address risk factors at the community level will increase community capacity and increase the effectiveness of police interventions. The Planning and implementation of long term strategies to address gangs within comminutes will allow the community to move from a reactive position into a preventative position while creating invested partnerships between government and non-profit agencies. Some short term strategies are also needed in order to provide the community with safety and security. Long term planning works to reduce risk factors present within the community, but short term strategies are needed to address emergency situations such as gang violence in a school. Providing the community with a free recreation program may do little to impact current gang violence in a school. Therefore, creating short term strategies such as a specialized intervention team comprised of police, social workers and other agencies to address these types of situations would prove useful. Short term intensive interventions can be very useful when paired with other long term resources. The emphasis should be on the creation, implementation and maintenance of long term strategies, but it’s unrealistic to think a community will never need to address a risk with immediacy. Short term strategies would likely fit with in suppression, followed by providing resources to those involved from the intervention approach. (Jharna Chatterjee, 2006 )
The issue of gangs may never be completely resolved, but communities, with the assistance of police, the justice system and non-profit agencies can make an impact. Remembering that even some short term goals or strategies have the ability to impact the behavior of individual’s long term is essential. Gangs meet a unique need for each individual member, interventions modeled after the Comprehensive Gang Model will allow those needs to be met at the community level, ultimately reducing gang involvement overtime.
Jharna Chatterjee, P. (2006 ). A Research Report on Youth Gangs: Problems, Perspective and Priorities. Ottawa: Royal Canadian Mounted Police or the Government of Canada.
Justice, U. D. (2007 ). Best Practice to Address Gang problems . Washington D.C: National Youth Gang Center.
Kerr, D. G. (2011). National Outcomes Framework. Boys and Girls Clubs Canada.
National Institute of Justice . (2014, 11 27). National Institute of Justice . Retrieved from About Crime Solutions : https://www.crimesolutions.gov/programs.aspx