Residents Could Do
The gangs discussed in Into the Abyss tend to identify themselves with
or conduct most of their activities in specific neighborhoods, not whole communities or cities. By focusing prevention,
intervention, suppression, and treatment efforts at the neighborhood level you will be targeting
the very heart of the problem. And in order for the solutions to be effective,
neighborhood residents need to get involved.
Every neighborhood must take stock of
itself - really work to understand its strengths and weaknesses, particularly
learning where it is most vulnerable to losing disenfranchised youth to the lure
of street gangs. Then each neighborhood must capitalize upon its strengths in
order to overcome its weaknesses.
To do that, everybody must get involved. Keep
watch over a neighbor’s home. Volunteer to work with youth. Donate your time
and talent to neighborhood projects. Do something to contribute to your
neighborhood’s capacity for providing youth with opportunities to become
productive, law-abiding members of civil society.
(The Gang Crime Prevention
Center, Illinois, page as
of summer 2001, off the web as of December 2005)
There are many ways to get involved. You can recruit neighbors to get them
involved, participate in publicity mailings, or be a part of a phone chain (one
person calls two other people and each of them call two other people, and so on
until every one is called about an upcoming meeting or event). You can solicit door-to-door for the
participate in town meetings and the programs or events which are held.
Local residents will find that working with the police will also help deter
gang activity. Community-oriented policing find police departments building
partnerships with the neighborhoods they serve. The creation of sub-stations in
gang-infested neighborhoods is an example of community-oriented policing. In
their study of the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department's gang unit, Katz and Webb
report what that department's managers see as valuable about a
My idea of the community approach ... I think they want
to form a partnership with the community, and one of the programs they put
in place is the area manager program, where they have a lieutenant assigned
to a specific area and he is the main person. It's like his own little
precinct for that community, and they go to that lieutenant with their
problems, and that lieutenant fans it out on how to deal with the problem.
To me, that's the biggest thing we've done ... move the police department as
far as precinct substations back into the community where they don't see us
as a taboo or something mysterious ... we're regular people, this is who we
are, and we're not going to fix your problem along - we need to fix the
problem together. (Katz
and Webb, 2004, p. 404)
What follows are some programs you may be interested in emulating or that may help you
think of other things which could be done in your community to reduce gang
activity and youth violence.
Click on the topics
continue reading down the page ...
|The Gang Reduction Program (GRP)|
Gang Reduction Program, instituted in 2003, was piloted in four
cities in the United States (L.A., Milwaukee, Richmond [VA], and
Miami). Read about its five-pronged approach to gang reduction
(primary prevention, secondary prevention, intervention, suppression,
|Gang Summits and Truces: |
"Gang summits and truces negotiated by local residents may be more
effective than those brought about in other ways. In the District of Columbia,
members of the Alliance for Concerned Men negotiated a truce among warring gangs
that had been terrorizing Benning Terrace.
"In January 1997, with the help of NCNE (1999), which
assisted in strategic planning and provided a neutral meeting location, the
alliance stepped in after a period of escalating violence. Six homicides had
occurred in Benning Terrace in 1996. Following the alliance's intervention,
there were no homicides from January 1997 to August 1998 (National Center for
Neighborhood Enterprise, 1999)." (Howell,
|The Pied Piper Walked to School: |
Several of the cities I visited had programs where specially trained adults stood on
pre-designated street corners in residential neighborhoods and waited for children who they were to accompany to school in the
morning. They, or another adult, went to the school at the end of the
school day and walked the children back to their respective corners.
This is an easy way to provide security for children and to make a
statement about taking one's neighborhood back from gang members who are threatening the children on their way to school or back home. It also provides
the adults with information on who, if anyone, is still attempting to harass the
A police gang unit supervisor told me about what the residents in one of the
city's neighborhoods did. "Under the pretense of walking their dogs, the
residents donned orange baseball hats and patrolled their neighborhood. They
called and gave us the car license
plate numbers and vehicle descriptions for suspicious looking drivers and, after
a year of doing that, gang members finally left the neighborhood."
of Youth Violence Prevention: A Sourcebook for Community Action|
These programs are drawn from real-world
experiences of professionals and advocates who have successfully worked
to prevent violence among children and adolescents. As a CDC
publication, the sourcebook also documents the science behind each best
practice and offers a comprehensive directory of resources for more
information about programs that have used these practices.
The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) notes that there are at least ten things
community residents can do to address local problems, whether the problem be
gangs or some other issue. (NCPC,
as of summer, 2001 - may no longer be in operation as of January, 2004)
While the headings found in that list and the first sentence or two
following each were authored by the NCPC, in what I present below I've sprinkled in some material on gangs and youth
Internet links you may find of interest.
|Work Collaboratively: |
Work with public agencies
and other organizations - neighborhood-based or community-wide
- on solving common problems. Don't be shy about letting them know what
your community needs. Neighborhood-based organizations include schools,
local businesses, and the faith community organizations.
Community-wide organizations may include social service agencies
(look in your telephone Yellow Pages under "Social Service and
Welfare Organizations for a list of agencies to contact), task force
groups, and committees established by your mayor or other local
|Provide activities for neighborhood youth: |
Find positive ways for
youth in the neighborhood to spend
their spare time - through organized recreation, tutoring programs,
part-time work, volunteer opportunities, and whatever else you and your
colleagues can dream up.
Contact a local college or university and see if they
have a "Service Learning" or community service program which
could provide students to act as supervisors for after-school athletic
games, volunteering (there's lots of organizations, nursing homes, and
other places that could use the help of local youth) or other activities
(a tour to the museum, a bakery, a local manufacturer, etc.).
|Create a Neighborhood Watch Program: |
Working with local police, create a
Watch program or a
patrol (then search that web page for residential). working with police. Make sure streets and homes are
well lit at night and that sidewalks are even and easy to walk on (that means
residents will likely use them more and gangs do not like crowds).
A Neighborhood Watch program doesn't mean anything if the neighbors don't
"watch." The National Crime Prevention Council has some good ideas
how to start a Neighborhood Watch
program and keep it active.
Familiarize yourself with the people and cars in
your neighborhood. When a stranger or unknown car appears, be alert to
the potential of danger. If you are at all concerned, call 911 and
report the incident to the local police. If you can get a description
of the person or the car (including the license plate number and the
color and make of car), all the better!
Oxnard's (CA) Neighborhood Watch Patrol:
Have you ever thought of organizing your neighbors to become a civilian watch
Patrol Handbook offers good ideas and should get you motivated to become
active in organizing your neighbors for needed action. The City of Oxnard (CA)
has implemented a watch patrol strategy for reducing gang-related activities and
believe they have been successful in their endeavors.
Regarding the ideas presented in the Handbook, the authors of the
states "The recommendations and suggestions are just that, suggestions. We
do not intend to say that this is the only way a watch program will work. Each
neighborhood is different and has different problems and requirements. Use what
you can and adapt the techniques to fit your own neighborhoods
Watch Patrol Handbook)
|Build a partnership with police: |
The partnership should focus on solving problems
instead of reacting to crises. The partnership will make it
possible for neighbors to report suspicious activity or crimes without
fear of retaliation from offenders (possibly gang members).
Partnerships such as this are being sought by
police departments across the country and are part and parcel of problem-oriented
or community-oriented policing efforts.
When it comes to gangs, share what you know with the police. They
will assure you that whatever you say will be held in confidence. If you
prefer, meet your local beat officer someplace away from the
neighborhood so local gang members don't see you together. That way
you need not fear retaliation.
Policing Consortium provides some useful information. At
Community Policing Index
you can find a wealth of information and resources on community
policing. Here's a source of grants
for community policing efforts.
|There's strength in numbers: |
Take advantage of safety in numbers to hold rallies, marches, and
other group activities to show you're determined to drive out crime and
It's the same way with graffiti. If you remove it every time it
appears the gang members will stop putting it there (they may just go
elsewhere but at least it's not in your neighborhood any more).
Removing the graffiti is as bold as the act of creating the graffiti and
communicates to those who put it there that neighborhood residents will not
tolerate it, that the residents are in control, not the gangs. Did you already
read about the
four "Rs" of graffiti?
There's usually a local community service agency, private business, or
individual who will remove graffiti if they're told about it. To find out if
that service is available, contact your local police, juvenile officers, or
|Clean up the neighborhood: |
- children, teens, young adults, senior citizens. Graffiti, litter, abandoned cars, and
run-down buildings communicate to criminals that neighborhood residents don't care about
their neighborhood, property, or each other. Call the city public works department and ask for
help in cleaning up.
You can reach local youths more effectively by
contacting your local schools and asking if they would be willing to take on a
community service project and help clean the neighborhood.
Make a weekend of it and have a free lunch for everyone who participates in
the clean up. Maybe your local grocers will provide some hot dogs and other
things you'll need. With a little work, everything could be provided free of
charge except for the labor to cook it up - you and your neighbors can do
Having a clean neighborhood tells gang members that you care, and that
you're there. It's your neighborhood, not theirs. If you'd like to know a little more about removing
graffiti, visit the
site of the Columbus (OH) Police Department. You can also read about
Chicago has tackled the problem of graffiti.
|Be creative: |
officials to use new ways to get criminals
out of your building or neighborhood. These include enforcing anti-noise
laws, housing codes, health and fire codes, anti-nuisance laws, and
drug-free clauses in rental leases. For a sampling of the kinds of city
ordinances and state laws which may be used visit Gang-Related
Legislation here in Into the Abyss.
|Form a Court Watch: |
In order to help support victims and witnesses, create a Court Watch
program and see that criminals get
fairly punished. A Court Watch program finds neighbors sitting in the
court room as members of the audience. This makes a statement to the judge and
prosecutor that residents of the community care about what they are doing and that
the residents want justice.
prosecutors are usually in elected positions. They need your support and vote
at election time. Show them that you care about your local youth and the
problems some of them are creating for the neighborhood.
It won't take long
before the prosecutor begins to respond to youthful law violators in a way
which ruins misbehaving in the neighborhood. Here's
example of a court watch program which focuses upon cases of
driving under the influence (DUI). Here's a description of the
Canadian Court Watch program.
Invite your prosecutor to a community
forum and invite him/her to join your community
task force on gangs and youth violence, if you have one. Prosecutors,
given the power they have and the relationships they have with judges and
police, are a powerful ally in your fight to protect your neighborhood and its
children against victimization by gang members.
|Work with your neighborhood social
Work with schools
gun-free zones; work with recreation officials
to do the same for parks. Work to have a gang-free zone in your
According to the Wilmington (NC) Police Department you can create a gang
free neighborhood if you and your neighbors "Develop positive alternative
in your community. Share transportation to after school programs. Ask older
kids to tutor or mentor younger ones. Ask your child what interests them.
"Get organized against the gang organization. Get help right in your
community. Try these kinds people in addition to the police; priest or
minister, family counselor, community association, school counselor or
principal, athletic coach, youth-serving agencies and others." (Wilmington
(NC) Police Department)
a family guide to keeping your children drug-free.
|Create a resource book of youth-serving agencies:|
Develop and share a
phone list of local organizations that
can provide counseling, job training, guidance, and other services that
neighborhood youth might need. Look in your telephone Yellow Pages under "Social Service and
Welfare Organizations for a list of agencies in your area. Many of
the services these agencies are free of charge to those who avail themselves
of them. Here's an example of a
Guide as prepared by Dan Schepers, Greene County (MO) Juvenile
Services, for the Interagency Task Force on
Gangs and Youth Violence (scroll down and look on the left side of
the screen for "Resource Guide to Agencies and Services").
In order to implement some of the solutions mentioned above, neighborhood
or community planning may be needed. Here's a guide you can use in the
Seven Steps to Successful
Learning, no date, presented here with permission)
A method for organizing a community for positive action is
suggested by AGC/United Learning. (AGC/United
Learning, no date) I've taken some liberty in revising the steps they present to
more directly target our concern for at-risk and high-risk youth.
|Step 1: Assess community readiness|
Is your community ready for prevention? Do
they know what's happening and why they should be concerned? If
not, you need to get the message out to them.
|Step 2: Assess available risk and
What are the risks factors to which local youth are
being exposed and what protective factors are in
place to insulate them from the negative consequences of those
|Step 3: Prioritize risk and
Which risk- and protective factors are your
priorities? Seek to address the risk factors about which you
are most concerned and the protective factors most likely to
remedy those risks.
|Step 4: Conduct a resource assessment|
What resources (protective factors) already
exist in your neighborhood/community which address the risks
about which you are concerned? Develop a directory of those resources for later distribution to all interested parties.
|Step 5: Identify gaps|
What protective factors or resources are
missing in your community? Your efforts will be to strength
existing resources and to find ways to fill the gaps where
needed resources are missing. This can be done by expanding the
services offered by existing resources and/or by developing new
|Step 6: Fill gaps with best practices|
Research has shown that there are some
programs or services which are better at providing protective
others. The best ones are referred to as best practices. A
variety of publications are available which discuss best
practices in relation to reducing youth violence, delinquency,
and gang behavior.
|Step 7: Evaluate the results|
How will you evaluate your prevention
efforts? Did the behaviors you wanted to reduce decline in
frequency or severity? For example: Is there less graffiti? Fewer
drive-by-shootings? Fewer children experimenting with drugs?
Fewer children truant or dropping out of school?
No solution is likely to be successful, however, without the cooperation and
coordination of various individuals, organizations, and agencies. How to build a
coalition is our
Additional Resources: The
E. Casey Foundation makes long-term commitments to neighborhoods where
distressed and disadvantaged children live. You can visit the
Foundation Initiatives page of the Foundation's website, read
about what they offer, and make your initial contact.
You can also contact Take a Bite
Out of Crime and obtain some useful information and free literature to
circulate in your neighborhood. Look on the left side of the Take a Bite
Out of Crime homepage for some useful links.
Institute (the folks who created the 40 assets model, offers information on
Healthy Communities - Healthy
Youth. You can read about
(the class ring company) and the grants they award to certain communities.
You can also read about the
dynamics of change in asset-building communities, and
engaged in asset building at the Search Institute site.
Michael K. Carlie
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission in
writing from the author and copyright holder - Michael K. Carlie.