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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Interactions Between Youth and Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2018
31 pages

This literature review discusses the research relevant to interactions between police and youth, with the major sections of this report addressing the prevalence of police-youth interactions, factors that influence such interactions, the role of law enforcement in the juvenile justice system, and the outcome evidence of programs developed to improve police-youth encounters.


The section on the prevalence of police-youth interactions considers the following topics: youth-initiated contact, police-initiated contact, contact resulting in arrest, contact due to victimization, and officer safety. The section on law enforcement's role in the juvenile justice system focuses on officer discretion and decision-making in responding to offenses committed by youth and investigative tactics in such cases. The discussion of factors that influence police-youth interactions address legal factors, extra-legal factors, diversion programs, and prevention programs. Community-based policing programs are then profiled. In concluding remarks, the report notes that interactions between law enforcement officers and youth, whether initiated by police or by youth, occur often and in various settings. Concerns with youth, officer, and community safety are always present during these interactions; however, the available information indicates that there is much still unknown about the nature of police-youth contact. Despite this limited understanding of interactions between law enforcement officers and youth, there are several programs that are specifically designed to improve interactions or incorporate secondary elements that can have a positive impact on interactions between police officers and youth. These include prevention programs, police-led diversion programs, and community-based policing programs. In 2017, the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) convened a group of researchers, practitioners, and federal staff to discuss the current state of research on interactions between law enforcement and youth. Future research considerations are outlined in the current report. 162 references

Date Published: January 1, 2018