imprisonment, and close supervision of gang youth are insufficient ... unless joined with other community-oriented strategies to achieve long-term
impact on the problem. This means that
community-based agencies and local groups must accept and collaborate with
criminal justice agencies in patrol, surveillance, and certain
information-sharing under conditions that protect both youth and the
community. Police, prosecution, and
other criminal justice agencies must develop a variety of social intervention,
opportunities, prevention, and community involvement programs to supplement
their primary goal of suppressing gang crime. (Kane,
"to work jointly with others or together; to cooperate with an agency
or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected."
Because youth violence is a community problem, it is not a problem that
either law enforcement, families, schools, human services, or community
agencies can remedy alone. All members of the community (agencies and individuals)
must work together
in a coordinated effort to reduce gang activity and youth violence. Too
often individuals and agencies work independently, sometimes even at odds
with one another, as they compete for limited resources to accomplish
their goals. The consequences of this competition have been less than
Currently there are numerous family, drug
counseling, remedial education programs, etc., in existence in gang impacted
communities. Unfortunately, many of these programs are so fragmented as to
be almost useless. (Jackson and
McBride, 2000, p. 16)
Community leaders should be at the forefront of bringing the issue of
collaboration to their
community's attention. Collaboration requires that independent agencies
figuratively join together in order to accomplish a specific goal. In this
case, the goal is to bring a concerted effort to reducing gangs activity and
youth violence. Each agency has something to offer and, together and working
cooperatively, their efforts are magnified. At least that's the hope.
a luxury, they’re essential because the problems are too big and too
of Families for Children's Mental Health, 1998, page)
Community leaders have the ability to convene community forums (to
be discussed briefly), call on existing groups to assist in the effort, or form a council
or task force that devotes its attention to gang activity and youth violence.
The leaders need to encourage communities to focus on their youth, look at
the resources they have available and the resources they need to develop,
and select strategies that would best serve local youth given the community's needs, history, and culture.
There are many ways to go about developing a coalition. The
following Steps to Developing a Collaborative Effort is a compendium
of several of the best ideas I've found.
to Developing a Collaborative Effort
the age of communication and we're not communicating!
1: Gather local data on gang activity and youth violence. This
may be obtained from police, newspaper accounts, juvenile officers,
probation and parole officers, and school administrators. How much
gang activity and youth violence is there, where is it occurring, what is
the nature of that activity, what is being done about the problem, and what
is not being done about it?
Organize your findings and
prepare a way of sharing them with those who attend the meeting that is
going to be held (see Step 2). Additional information on the gang situation
may also be revealed at the meeting.
2: Get a small group of people together. They should be
representative of the agencies and organizations in your community with an interest in serving local
youth. It may also include representatives from the neighborhoods in which
most of the gang activity and youth violence is taking place. It doesn't
have to be a large group. In fact, a small group may be able to do more
things more quickly.
At the meeting, define the
presenting problem (the findings on gangs activity and youth
violence) and its impact
on the community. If presented properly, the data should move
everyone to take action. The goal is for them to take collaborative
What is needed? A
discussion should take place as to what is needed to reduce gang activity
and youth violence. Some of those needs are likely to reflect what you
read in Why
Gangs Form. Others may be unique to your community. Knowing what
the problem is and what is needed, the group can not identify what needs
to be done to reduce the gang activity and youth violence.
key stakeholders. Identify the individuals, agencies, and
organizations in town that are best able to provide that which is needed
to reduce the gang activity and youth violence and who are the people who
are most affected by the problem.
Step 3: Convene the first coalition
meeting. It's time for the stakeholders and original members to
meet. The purpose of this meeting, one of several which are sure to follow,
is to share the findings and the vision of what is needed to reduce gang
activity and youth violence in the community (or affected neighborhoods). Include
the mayor, district representatives, the juvenile judge, chief prosecutor, and Chief of police. Not only may they be
forthcoming in giving you some good ideas, you'll need their support later
as you Identify individuals and organizations to participate in the
Everyone present should be aware of the signs of gang
activity and the extent of youth violence in the community. A
community unaware of a problem will not respond well to efforts
to reduce it.
Although there may be turf issues between
agencies or organizations represented at the meeting, these need to be
overcome for the long-term welfare of the community and its children. Consensus
building is key - everyone should leave the meeting with a clear notion of
the problem and the need for agencies to work together to solve the
No agency or organization alone can deal
appropriately with the problem of youth gang crime. Only a comprehensive
community-based approach involving other community-based, criminal justice,
and grassroots organizations interested in both preventing and controlling
youth gang crime, including gang-related violence, holds promise of
Step 4: Begin strategic
A. Take an Inventory of Community/Youth
Achieving collaboration is a
process, and the process usually begins by taking an inventory
of community needs. One of the most effective approaches being used today is the risk and
protective factor approach which identifies the risks
youths face and
assesses whether the factors needed to protect them from those risks exist
in the community or not.
B. Discuss Possible Courses of Action:
Once the needs are known,
determine what the best course of action may be to address those needs.
C. Develop a Coordinated Plan:
A plan of action is then developed, goals are established (i.e., reducing
assaults in the schools, reducing the number of gang members in the
community, expanding existing services, reducing the amount of graffiti in
the neighborhood, increasing school attendance, lowering the dropout rate,
finding summer employment for local youth, raising additional funds), and
human, financial, and material resources are allocated. Coordination
of collaborative efforts and of the services or programs to be provided is
paramount if the endeavor is to be successful.
Step 5. Implement the Plan:
The plan is then implemented and a previously-designated coordinator of the plan
makes sure all aspects of the plan are implemented correctly. Youth
violence and gangs are recurring problems, so the plan should build in
continued momentum over the long-term. If reducing the number of dropouts
from the schools is a goal, for example, then each year the goal is
increased and the effort attempts to continually lower the dropout rate.
Step 6. Assess the
Outcome and Carry On
Did the plan work? Are dropout rates coming down? Is there
less graffiti? Assessment of the outcomes will provide feedback
needed to continue, expand, or modify the plan because the
desired goals are not being achieved. Address failures and celebrate
successes no matter how large or small they may be.
A useful and practical guide for building coalitions is available
from the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (see
Chapter 2). If you're serious about wanting to build a coalition, it's worth
the small purchase price.
Building coalitions and
getting agencies and organizations to collaborate with one another is not an
easy task. It may require more time than you had anticipated. My only advice
would be to be patient and continue working toward your goal. The welfare of
your community's children is worth the struggle.
Cooperation and Coordination
In an ideal world - and in a community which has accepted there is a gang
situation which must be addressed - each social institution ( schools, faith and business communities, health care, government,
media, and justice system) would have a specialist responsible for gathering gang
activity and youth
violence data. They would bring the information they have to the coalition
meeting described above and to meetings of a community
task force or community
forum on gangs and youth violence.
Schools, Faith, Business, Health Care, and
Government: The school representative would access to information on the
concerns of students, parents, teachers, and administrators relative to gangs
and youth violence. Likewise, the faith community, business, health care, and government representatives
have concerns to share and would be able
to provide insight, guidance, and resources at the coalition meeting.
Mass Media: The media (print and
broadcast) would have at least one reporter or anchor who is interested in
the subject of gang activity and youth violence. By participating in
the coalition meeting the media representative would be able to inform the
entire community as to what is happening in town and provide accurate and timely information as a result of
his or her interaction
with the other task force and community forum participants.
Justice System: The police would have a gang specialist or
gang unit, prosecutors would have one or two assistant prosecutors who specialize in gang cases, juvenile services (for juveniles) and
probation/parole offices (for adults) would have gang specialists with caseloads
consisting primarily or exclusively of gang members and all of these
specialists would participate in the coalition meeting.
Youth-Serving Agencies: Youth-serving agencies in the community
would be represented at the coalition meetings. This includes agencies
providing substance abuse intervention,
counseling, parenting skills agencies, as well as organizations like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts,
and Boys and
Girls Club. Each community is unique in what it has to offer and all the
youth-serving agencies should be invited to participate in the coalition.
Neighborhood association representatives, particularly from neighborhoods
most effected by gangs and youth violence, would have a representative at
the coalition meetings.
Having representatives from each social institution in the community,
specialists on gangs from each component of the justice system, neighborhood
representatives, and representatives from youth-serving agencies meet regularly
would allow for a continual flow of information throughout the community. Like I said, it would
be the ideal situation. Every sector of the community would know what the other was doing and
each would cooperate with the other in coordinating their activities. This
increases the potential impact of every action and avoids duplicity.
The next four parts of this chapter deal other ways in which a
neighborhood or community may address its gang situation: creating community forums, gang and youth violence task force groups,
community-based youth agencies, and the Adopt and Agency program.