A Community Youth Development Approach to Gang Control Programs

Jeffrey A. Butts and Caterina Gouvis Roman (2010). A Community Youth Development Approach to Gang Control Programs. In Youth Gangs and Community Intervention: Research, Practice, and Evidence. Robert J. Chaskin (Editor). New York: Columbia University Press.

This chapter describes a potential path to a stronger conceptual framework for youth gang prevention and early intervention that draws upon one of the most well-established gang reduction efforts to date, the Comprehensive Community Model developed by Irving Spergel at the University of Chicago, as well as two increasingly prominent perspectives in the criminal and juvenile justice system: positive youth development and the community justice approach.

A key reason for the limited growth of gang prevention strategies is that youth gang programs are rarely evaluated, and without convincing evidence of effectiveness, such programs eventually lose the enthusiasm of political sponsors (Zahniser 2008). One reason they are not evaluated is that many gang prevention programs lack the theoretically oriented conceptual frameworks that are required to conduct a high-quality evaluation. Programs are often assembled from a grab bag of existing resources and program models—a little education here, a little job training there, add a dash of drug treatment, and throw in a pinch of counseling.  To make real progress in gang control, especially with prevention programs that focus on the youngest gang members and those at risk of gang involvement, researchers and practitioners must cooperate to build comprehensive interventions using frameworks that are theoretically, conceptually, and administratively sound.