Crime Prevention Programs

VI. Community Programs

In the interests of maximizing effectiveness, what is needed is a multiple-component, community-based program including several of the successful interventions listed above. Many of the programs reviewed in this research paper are of this type. However, “Communities That Care” (CTC) is an additional program that has many attractions. Perhaps more than any other program, it is evidence-based and systematic: The choice of interventions depends on empirical evidence about what are the important risk and protective factors in a particular community and on empirical evidence about “what works.” It has been implemented in at least 35 sites in England, Scotland, and Wales and also in the Netherlands and Australia. CTC was developed as a risk-focused prevention strategy by Hawkins and Catalano (1992), and it is a core component of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders. CTC is based on a theory (the social development model) that organizes risk and protective factors. The intervention techniques are tailored to the needs of each particular community. The “community” could be a city, a county, a small town, or even a neighborhood or a housing estate. This program aims to reduce delinquency and drug use by implementing particular prevention strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness in reducing risk factors or enhancing protective factors. It is modeled on large-scale, community-wide public health programs designed to reduce illnesses such as coronary heart disease by tackling key risk factors. There is great emphasis in CTC on enhancing protective factors and building on strengths, partly because this is more attractive to communities than tackling risk factors. However, it is generally true that health promotion is more effective than disease prevention. CTC programs begin with community mobilization. Key community leaders (e.g., elected representatives, education officials, police chiefs, business leaders) are brought together with the aim of getting them to agree on the goals of the prevention program and to implement CTC. The key leaders then set up a community board that is accountable to them, consisting of neighborhood residents and representatives from various agencies (e.g., school, police, social services, probation, health, parents, youth groups, business, church, media). The community board takes charge of prevention on behalf of the community. The community board then carries out a risk and protective factor assessment, identifying key risk factors in that particular community that need to be tackled and key protective factors that need enhancing. This risk assessment might involve the use of police, school, social, or census records or local neighborhood or school surveys. After identifying key risk and protective factors, the community board assesses existing resources and develops a plan of intervention strategies. With specialist technical assistance and guidance, they choose programs from a menu of strategies that have been shown to be effective in well-designed evaluation research. The menu of strategies listed by Hawkins and Catalano (1992) includes prenatal and postnatal home visiting programs, preschool intellectual enrichment programs, parent training, school organization and curriculum development, teacher training, and media campaigns. Other strategies include child skills training, anti-bullying programs in schools, situational prevention, and policing strategies. The choice of prevention strategies is based on empirical evidence about effective methods of tackling each particular risk factor, but it also depends on what are identified as the biggest problems in the community. While this approach is not without its challenges and complexities (e.g., cost, implementation, establishing partnerships among diverse agencies), an evidence-based approach that brings together the most effective prevention programs across multiple domains offers the greatest promise for reducing crime and building safer communities.

VII. Conclusion

High-quality evaluation research shows that many programs are effective in reducing delinquency and antisocial behavior, and that in many cases the financial benefits of these programs outweigh their financial costs. The best programs include general parent education, parent management training, preschool intellectual enrichment programs, child skills training, mentoring, teacher training, anti-bullying programs, and multisystemic therapy. The time is ripe to mount a large-scale, evidence-based, integrated national strategy for the reduction of crime and associated social problems, including rigorous evaluation requirements. This approach should implement programs to tackle risk factors and strengthen protective factors, and it could be based on “Communities That Care.” Primary prevention has been effective in improving health, and it could be equally effective in reducing delinquency and antisocial behavior in all countries.

Browse criminal justice research papers or view criminal justice research topics.


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