Frequently Asked Questions about the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model
Completing a thorough assessment of the gang problem achieves the following results for communities:
- Develops a structure and a mechanism for organized and ongoing data collection relating to implementation of the Model.
- Creates a common understanding of the gang problem among key agencies and gains buy-in from these agencies.
- Identifies the most appropriate target area for the Model.
- Identifies the demographics of the client population that is most heavily involved in gang-related crimes for suppression and intervention activities.
- Allows the community to quantify, on paper, the types of crimes that gangs are committing in the community, the factors in the community that have given rise to (and perpetuate) the local gang culture, and the gaps in existing services and resources.
- Allows the community to strategically target specific problems with effective strategies.
- Creates a numerical baseline of the problem for measuring the impact of the Model in the community.
Most important, communities that have conducted a comprehensive assessment and implemented the Model have been more likely to sustain the Model structure long-term than those areas where an assessment was not conducted.
Based on the status of data availability, the level and extent of the assessment that is contemplated, and the availability of the assessment work group members to collect data, it can take communities from 3 to 12 months to complete a comprehensive assessment and prepare an assessment report.
Most of the data that should be collected during the assessment is relatively simple to analyze and interpret. The types of data to collect, along with samples of how these data can be reported, are discussed in depth in the assessment manual. For more complex types of data, such as the student surveys and gang member interviews, it is advisable that communities work with a research partner, usually someone from a local college, university, or other research organization, who can provide data collection and analysis experience and skills.
During the assessment process, your community should identify existing programs and services, as well as gaps in existing resources. The Model recommends engaging existing programs and services that work with gang members, rather than duplicating them.
The membership of the steering committee should include decision makers from agencies and organizations that have an interest in or a responsibility for addressing the community’s gang problem. These representatives should not only set policy and oversee the overall direction of the project, but should take responsibility for spearheading efforts in their own organizations to remove barriers to services and to social and economic opportunities; develop effective criminal justice, school, and social agency procedures; and promote policies that will further the goals of the community’s gang strategy. An existing community committee may meet this need. Or the membership of this group might be expanded to fit the desired representation. In some cases, implementing the Model may require the creation of an entirely new body. This should be determined by local conditions and the membership/mandate of existing groups.
The Model is designed for areas with a serious, violent gang problem. Gang problems of this nature tend to be unevenly distributed throughout an entire metropolitan area, clustered in smaller sections of the community. Experience has shown that the Model has the most impact when it is implemented in an area of the community that has a population smaller than 80–100,000.
Many assessment and planning activities can lend themselves to community mobilization, one of the Model’s five core strategies. Conducting these activities can assist the project in learning about community dynamics and needs. Activities that can be conducted during the assessment and planning process include the following:
- Meeting with elected officials to educate them on the Model.
- Engaging ancillary agencies and organizations.
- Conducting community gang awareness and crime prevention trainings.
- Conducting community meetings and focus groups to address critical incidents.
- Sponsoring or participating in community fairs.
- Publicizing the work of the steering committee.
Several factors were common to projects sustained by local communities. These communities:
- Standardized and institutionalized data collection to show project outcomes. Access to these data was invaluable for leveraging funds and resources.
- Utilized strong and engaged steering committees that shared ownership and responsibility for the programs among the key agencies.
- Formalized participation of key agencies through the use of MOUs and letters of commitment that specifically outlined the roles and responsibilities of agencies and their personnel.
- Did not become reliant on grant funds for the performance of duties that fall within the normal roles and responsibilities of agencies.
- Pursued commitments from key agencies to dedicate staff time to the project.
- Leveraged funds from other agencies or planned for the project to be absorbed within an established agency.
- Required sustainability planning from contracted agencies. Such planning may enable project partners to identify resources to sustain specific elements of the project after the original funding expires.