Decades of research have uncovered the cyclical nature of violence, showing that youth who behave violently often were victims of violence themselves, directly or indirectly. Experiencing violence can disrupt a young person’s education or put them at risk for bullying or being bullied. It raises the likelihood that they will become involved in the juvenile or criminal justice system. Youth often carry the effects of witnessing or suffering violence well into adulthood.
OJJDP supports a range of programs aimed at deterring youth gun and gang violence, and mitigating its long-term impacts on youth’s physical and emotional well-being. In fiscal years 2020–2022, the Office allocated more than $67 million to 43 gang-prevention sites. Those initiatives encourage close collaboration among community-based organizations, service providers, and law enforcement professionals; employ practical interventions such as street outreach; and provide targeted services that address delinquency and offer alternatives to violence. OJJDP also supports the National Gang Center, whose resources help communities develop comprehensive solutions to prevent gang violence, reduce youth involvement in gangs, and suppress gang-related crime.
OJJDP funding “brought a lot of credibility to the work that we are doing.”
—Amber Govan, founder of Carter’s Crew
Several ongoing OJJDP-supported projects use multidisciplinary approaches to break the cycle of violence in their communities. In central Arkansas, Un-Repeating the Cycle—a program by OJJDP grantee Carter’s Crew—focuses on youth ages 12–17, many of them system involved and members of gangs. The afterschool program aims to deter gang membership and gun violence by offering intensive case management, street outreach, “aggression replacement” training, counseling, and career-readiness training.
The program focuses initially on participants’ home environments, addressing factors that steer young people toward gangs, including poverty, repeated exposure to violence, parental incarceration, and lack of parental involvement, explains Amber Govan, founder of Carter’s Crew. It encourages family participation in monthly family nights to promote bonding. These events combine educational workshops on topics such as financial literacy or healthy relationships with fun activities such as painting or bowling. The program receives support from dozens of local businesses, community-based service providers, and state and local agencies. A partnership with the Arkansas Division of Workforce Services, for example, offers participants work experience and the possibility of a job.
OJJDP funds Un-Repeating the Cycle through the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Programs for Youth initiative. Since receiving the OJJDP grant in 2020, Ms. Govan has been invited to speak at numerous webinars and trainings offered by the Institute for Intergovernmental Research, OJJDP’s training and technical assistance partner. That exposure led to significant donations to Carter’s Crew, including the use of several buildings that are now community resource centers, operated jointly by Carter’s Crew and other community groups. It also helped Carter’s Crew secure state funding that will allow the nonprofit to continue operating Un-Repeating the Cycle after the OJJDP grant closes in September 2023.
In Oakland, CA, Youth ALIVE! is using a grant from OJJDP’s Comprehensive Youth Violence Prevention and Reduction program to prevent the escalation of gang violence and youth victimization, and promote youth healing with mental health counseling. Youth ALIVE!’s intervention efforts include Caught in the Crossfire, the nation’s first hospital-based violence intervention program; a violence interruption team that provides street outreach and mediation; and the Pathways mentorship program, which offers mentoring case management and school-based support.
Youth ALIVE! programs are tightly linked, providing a robust network of support. The Caught in the Crossfire and violence interruption teams can readily access in-house counseling services, for example, reducing barriers to accessing mental health support. Youth ALIVE! also embraces the expertise youth gain through lived experience, encouraging those who are deeply affected by violence to shape programming—a hallmark of the community violence intervention approach favored by OJJDP.
Listen to a June 2023 National Gang Center podcast on leveraging opportunities for violence intervention. The center’s Voices From the Field podcast series focuses on community violence intervention strategies that address gang and gun violence. Find other episodes on the center’s website.
OJJDP’s Comprehensive Gang Model comprises five core strategies and represents a collaborative approach to preventing and reducing gang violence.