Community Policy Brief

    What Is the Purpose of this Study?

  • • To assess the impact of a school-based gang membership and violence prevention program on outcomes of interest for students enrolled during the 2007–2008 school year, and to explore qualitatively program effects.

    What Is the Problem?

  • • It is estimated that there are approximately 788,000 gang members in the United States. Of these, approximately 37% are estimated to be younger than 18 years old.

  • • Between 2001 and 2006, the percent of small cities in the United States with active youth gangs increased from 22.3% to 32.5%.

  • • Little research exists that describes the outcomes of school-based gang membership and violence prevention programs. The literature about school-based violence prevention programming in general includes few studies where the majority of student participants were non-white.

    What Are the Findings?

  • • Participation in the Haverhill, Massachusetts–based Violence Intervention Program (VIP) was associated with a slight reduction in school absenteeism and an increase in employment readiness.

  • • VIP members expressed strong, positive feelings about the program. According to their reports, VIP fosters increased self-esteem, leadership skills, social connectedness, conflict resolution skills, and academic achievement.

  • • The program may need to focus more explicitly on particular violence-related attitudes and skills to produce additional behavior changes (i.e., reduced weapon carrying, reduced physical fighting) among participants.

    Who Should Care Most?

  • • School-based wellness and violence prevention programs.

  • • City and town coalitions that organize to prevent violence.

  • • Legislators and other decision makers who need evidence regarding innovative school-based gang membership and violence prevention programming.

    Recommendations for Action

  • • Continue to strengthen the VIP team program to produce behavior change, as well as knowledge and attitude change.

  • • Identify ways to facilitate data collection to improve the accuracy of the evaluation.

  • • Share information with other violence prevention practitioners who may have experiences with youth-directed programs.

  • • Provide funding for implementation and evaluation of innovative school-based gang violence prevention programs. [End Page 169]

Emily F. Rothman
Boston University School of Public Health
Carol Ireland
Haverhill Public Schools
Lori Curry
Haverhill Public Schools
Allyson Baughman
Boston University School of Public Health
Donald Thompson
Haverhill Police Department

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