Project Supports California Cities’ Violence Prevention Efforts
August 13, 2012 | Livier Gutierrez
Youth violence is a serious problem in the United States. More than 692,000 young people ages 10 to 24 are treated in emergency departments each year for injuries caused by violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008). In addition to inflicting debilitating physical wounds, victimization and exposure to violence can negatively affect youths’ brain development, emotional attachments, relationships, physical health, educational success, and risk of future delinquency.
Youth violence is a serious problem in the United States. More than 692,000 young people ages 10 to 24 are treated in emergency departments each year for injuries caused by violence (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008). In addition to inflicting debilitating physical wounds, victimization and exposure to violence can negatively affect youths’ brain development, emotional attachments, relationships, physical health, educational success, and risk of future delinquency. Victimization and exposure to violence may also result in substance abuse, domestic violence perpetration, and suicide (Kilpatrick et al., 2003; Wood et al., 2002). And while most violent crimes involving youth are simple assaults (Lauritsen, 2003), from 1999 to 2006, homicide was the second-leading cause of death for all youth in the United States (CDC, 2010). Homicide hits youth of color especially hard. It is the leading cause of death for African American youth and the second-leading cause of death for Hispanic youth (CDC, 2010).
The serious consequences of youth violence are not restricted to individuals; violence and victimization affect the well-being of entire communities. Violence has negative effects on the nature and quality of social relations, business activity, and housing values (Tita, Petra, & Greenbaum, 2006). Overall, the direct and indirect costs of youth violence to a community, including medical costs, lost productivity, and quality of life, can add up to more than $158 billion a year (CDC, 2008).
Given that more than half of US homicides occur in cities with a population of 100,000 or more (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2010), the responsibility of cities for the reduction of youth violence is undeniable. The challenge, therefore, is to provide cities with the training and technical assistance to respond to the complex factors associated with youth violence. The National Council on Crime and Delinquency (NCCD), in partnership with the National League of Cities’ (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families, launched the California Cities Gang Prevention Network (the Network) in 2007. The Network is a 13-city initiative that aims to reduce gang violence and victimization, mortality, and morbidity, and to develop a statewide policy agenda to abet promising local efforts. Participating cities (Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Oxnard, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San José, Santa Rosa, and Stockton) pledged to forge and implement comprehensive, citywide plans that interweave prevention, intervention, enforcement, and the community’s “moral voice.”
In order to ascertain the impact of the Network on the 13 participating cities’ violence-reduction efforts, Dr. Angela Wolf, associate director of research at NCCD, led a process evaluation of the first three years of the Network (2007–2009). NCCD’s recent publication of Focus, “Key Findings from the California Cities Gang Prevention Network Process Evaluation,” summarizes Dr. Wolf’s findings. NCCD’s process evaluation revealed several of the Network’s major achievements:
- The Network filled a significant gap in the work of gang violence reduction;
- The Network developed linkages that helped cities be more productive in their work at home;
- The technical assistance provided by NCCD-NLC coordinating staff helped cities make great leaps toward achieving their goals; and
- The Network excelled at what it set out to accomplish and more: promoting best practices, using peer learning as a strategy to make cities’ efforts more effective, encouraging community collaboration, and promoting state and federal policy.
The process evaluation also ascertained the role and function of the Network for cities, as well as strengths and areas in need of improvement. You can read the latest Focus by clicking here.
Since Dr. Wolf’s evaluation, the Network has expanded its achievements, especially regarding policy impact. During the time NCCD and NLC co-directed the Network (2007–2012), the Network made significant policy gains. In conjunction with PICO California, the Network helped preserve CalGRIP funding, a core funding source for CCGPN cities’ comprehensive programming; and helped secure the passage of SB 92 (2011), a budget trailer bill that created the Board of State and Community Corrections, whose mission includes language that now parallels the CCGPN’s mission: to support policies and practices that interweave prevention, intervention, enforcement, and a community’s “moral voice” as an alternative to prison-only solutions. Moreover, the Network was an inspiration for the White House’s development of the national Forum to Prevent Youth Violence (the Forum). The Forum, in a manner similar to the Network, provides context for participating localities—including San Jose and Salinas, two Network cities—to share challenges and promising strategies to combat youth violence. To date, the Network is advancing these and other policy goals under the leadership of Jack Calhoun. To learn more about the Network, click here.
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (2010). Homicide trends in the U.S. Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/homtrnd.cfm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Fact sheet: Understanding youth violence. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/pub-res/YVFactSheet.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). 10 leading causes of death, United States, 1999–2006, all races, both sexes. Retrieved from http://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcaus10.html
Kilpatrick, D. G., Saunders, B. E., & Smith, D. W. (2003). Youth victimization: Prevalence and implications. Research in brief (NCJ 194972). Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.
Lauritsen, J. L. (2003). How families and communities influence youth victimization. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/201629.pdf
Tita, G., Petras, T., & Greenbaum, R. (2006) Crime and residential choice: A neighborhood level analysis of the impact of crime on housing prices. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 22(4).
Wood, J., Foy, D., Goguen, C., Pynoos, R., & James, C. B. (2002). Violence exposure and PTSD among delinquent girls. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 6(1), 109–126.