Urban Institute Completes Evaluation of OJJDP's Gang Reduction Program
Photo of teenage boys.

In the 1970s, less than half the states reported gang problems. But by the turn of the 21st century, every state and the District of Columbia were facing this challenge. Helping communities combat gang activity is a major priority for OJJDP, and its Gang Reduction Program (GRP)—a $10 million, multiyear initiative (2003–08) to reduce crime associated with youth street gangs in Los Angeles, CA; Milwaukee, WI; North Miami Beach, FL; and Richmond, VA—has been a leading initiative to that end. A comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated approach to preventing and reducing gang activity, the program emphasizes addressing the needs of youth and effecting change in families, organizations, and communities.

The program's multipronged implementation approach required community stakeholders to develop local plans to address family, peer, school, and community needs. Next, stakeholders identified local resources that they could use to meet these needs. After these planning objectives had been met, communities could use federal support to enhance delivery of appropriate resources and services to meet the identified needs. In the fall of 2003, OJJDP made a onetime, 5-year, $2.5 million award to each site.

Researchers from the Urban Institute conducted an independent evaluation focused on program implementation and outcomes in each of the four cities. The results of that evaluation will soon be available in an upcoming OJJDP bulletin, Findings From the Evaluation of OJJDP's Gang Reduction Program.

The implementation component of the evaluation assessed the progress of the initiative in each site from its launch in the spring of 2003 through mid-2008. The outcomes component considered the effects of the program in each site from implementation through early 2008 and examined whether each site experienced significant changes in gang-related crime, serious crime, and other outcome measures associated with the goals of GRP. Following are some of the researchers' key findings:

  • In contrast to many previous crime prevention and reduction efforts, all sites successfully implemented the GRP model. Three of the four sites also implemented plans to sustain elements of the program as federal funding expired.
  • Successful outcomes related to crime reduction were seen in most of the sites although results varied.
  • Strong leadership of a site coordinator, close oversight by OJJDP during the strategic planning and implementation phases, and the availability of technical assistance contributed to implementation progress at the sites.
  • GRP is not a one size-fits-all approach to gang prevention and reduction. The model is flexible enough that sites can adapt it to local conditions yet remain true to the original design.

left quoteEach site experienced significant success at building partnerships to address local gang and crime issues. right quote
The findings from the evaluation of the Gang Reduction Program have contributed significant information about the implementation process and potential outcomes of OJJDP's comprehensive anti-gang model. The lessons learned from the evaluation of the GRP model in Los Angeles, Milwaukee, North Miami Beach, and Richmond provide a foundation from which future sites can learn. In addition, the GRP evaluation can inform future policy at OJJDP and other federal agencies in the successful implementation of a comprehensive anti-gang program.