Strategies Using Multiple Techniques

A number of communities have developed gang strategies that integrate two or more techniques. Such communities typically are guided by a local task force formed to curb gang involvement and violence. Community policing also is often used with other techniques.

Community Policing

Community policing programs appear to have realized some success in dealing with youth gang problems. Cronin (1994) describes the Norfolk Police Assisted Community Enforcement program, which has a gang component and is focused in low-income housing areas. A second community policing model that targets youth gangs is a Reno, NV, program (Weston, 1995). Through the formation of a Community Action Team (CAT), the Reno Police Department involves representatives from minority neighborhoods, officials from community service agencies, and political leaders in a community solution to the city’s serious youth gang problem (Weston, 1995). The CAT program has two strategies: (1) creation of a highly specialized team of officers to target the top 5 percent of violent gang members in a repeat offender program and (2) a prevention and early intervention program that targets an estimated 80 percent of Reno's gang members who are not considered to be hardcore. Neighborhood advisory groups provide feedback from community residents, and an interagency group coordinates prevention and intervention resources. Although the program has not been independently evaluated, local officials are convinced it is effective and continue to support its operations (Weston, 1995). A third community policing model, in the Redlands, CA, Police Department, incorporates a new scientific approach: "risk-focused policing" (Rich, 1999). The model is based on the extensive research literature on risk and protective factors. Data related to these factors, adolescent problem behaviors, and existing programs are entered into a database. Mapping software displays the results by census block. To prevent delinquency and gang involvement more effectively, the police department focuses its resources on areas that most need risk reduction and protection enhancement.


Community-University Model for Gang Intervention and Delinquency Prevention in Small Cities

Takata and Tyler (1994) assisted Racine, WI (population, 84,298), in developing the Community-University Model for Gang Intervention and Delinquency Prevention in Small Cities, which also can be adapted for larger cities. This team model consists of six major steps that communities experiencing an emerging gang problem can take:

  • A genuine commitment to youth. This can be demonstrated by working directly with youth, developing an understanding of their problems and concerns, building trust, and empowering them to solve problems. The team must demonstrate a commitment to resolving local issues (e.g., the need for recreational facilities in minority neighborhoods) and develop a thorough understanding of the city's social, political, and economic context, especially race and ethnic relations.

  • Gang problem assessment. The team will need to investigate, observe, and document the developing gang problem while learning from neighboring jurisdictions through the exchange of information. The team must understand the basis for initial denial of gang problems by some groups, agencies, and individuals. Meetings with community leaders and individuals must be organized. In all likelihood, a catalyzing event will occur, if it has not already, that forces recognition of the problem.

  • Initial networking. A task force should be formed to collaborate on possible solutions. Its work includes organizing community meetings and neighborhood hearings to identify solutions and develop a collaborative response to gangs.

  • Local study of the gang situation. The task force should identify a local college, university, or other community resource that can study the local gang problem. This study would provide the documentation necessary to secure external funding for the programs the task force identifies. Initial funding might be sought to implement one or two of the task force's recommendations (e.g., community collaboration). The task force should be alert to politicization of its work by opposition parties.

  • Timeout. In this stage, the task force should publish and disseminate research findings, expand its network via conferences and other communication outlets, identify funding sources, establish political foundations for funding, and prepare grant/contract applications for the second set of awards.

  • Development of new programs. The final stage is program development and implementation. The overall plan should include long-term goals and a master plan. New programs should be implemented through continued collaborative efforts. Research and program development would continue during the implementation of the program.

Other communities have organized their gang assessment, planning, and program development initiatives in similar steps.


Aurora Gang Task Force

Aurora, CO, formed the all-volunteer Aurora Gang Task Force (AGTF) in 1989 (Atkinson, 1996). The members of AGTF come from volunteer organizations, churches, social services, government agencies, the military, the media, and businesses. AGTF promotes programs for at-risk youth, lobbies for legislation to better control youth and adult gang-related behavior, advocates tougher prosecution and sentencing for youth and adult gang-related crime, and disseminates information about youth and adult gangs to the media, other interested agencies, the public, and community groups. AGTF also supports other city initiatives. One of these, the High Intensity Community Oriented Policing program, uses gang sweeps to control youth and adult gang-related drug trafficking and police area representatives assigned to assist citizens in keeping gang crime out of their neighborhoods.

Aurora was honored by the National Conference of Mayors' 1992 City Livability Awards program for its efforts to mobilize an effective response to youth and adult gangs. Gang-related statistics compiled by the Aurora Police Department show mixed results. Although youth and adult gang arrests dropped, drug trafficking involving gangs increased, and "a conclusive solution to the gang problem remained frustratingly elusive" (Atkinson, 1996:261). Nevertheless, AGTF is considered a broad-based model for dealing with youth and adult gangs (Bureau of Justice Assistance, 1997b), with community policing serving as a key component.


Partnership for a Safer Cleveland

Cleveland's Task Force on Violent Crime (now called the Partnership for a Safer Cleveland) was formed in 1981 and enjoyed early success in dealing with gangs (Trump, 1996; Walker and Schmidt, 1996). Until 1989, however, city officials denied that the city had a gang problem. They then began to respond to Huff's (1989) research on Cleveland youth and adult gangs. The task force recommended that the Cleveland Police Department form a youth gang unit. Numerous other recommendations for the creation and expansion of programs and collaborative efforts were made and acted upon, and some of this work is still ongoing. A key feature of the task force's approach was its scope: the city's gang problem was assessed and responded to in the context of broader juvenile crime and drug problems.

The task force and the police department's youth gang unit concentrated part of their efforts on decreasing the presence of gangs in Cleveland's schools. This work paid off (Trump, 1996). School gang incidents decreased 39 percent citywide in just 2 years through the following integrated activities: prioritized enforcement, investigation, and intervention in school gang-related incidents citywide; staff, parent, and student antigang education; a truancy program; and a variety of coordinated programs designed to reduce gang activity and provide alternatives to gang involvement.



Another model for engaging communities in a gang problem-solving process, called SARA for each of its sequential steps—scanning, analysis, response, and assessment—is used by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (1997a) in the development of citywide and multijurisdictional enforcement strategies to investigate and prosecute drug distribution and related crimes committed by urban (mainly adult) street gangs. SARA is based on the principles of problem-oriented policing—proactively identifying problems, understanding the underlying causes of those problems, and developing interventions to address them (Goldstein, 1979, 1990).



Youth Gang Programs and Strategies
OJJDP Summary
August 2000