Philadelphia youth-service agencies and criminal justice agencies launched in 1999 a violence intervention team approach known as the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership (YVRP). The report Alive at 25: Reducing Youth Violence Through Monitoring and Support (McClanahan, 2004) documents the partnership’s approach to steering youth, ages 14 to 24 years old and at greatest risk of killing or being killed, toward productive lives. The targeted youths typically were members of local drug gangs and had multiple risk factors in their lives, and more than two-thirds had been incarcerated at some point. They are more likely to have (1) siblings who entered the juvenile justice system first, (2) an arrest record for a drug offense, (3) an arrest record for a gun charge, and (4) a history of incarceration. The program operates in the most violent police districts.
The YVRP infrastructure consists of three components: (1) the Operations Committee, composed of first-level agency supervisors, which seeks to ensure that program participants actually receive the contact, support, and expedited punishment that the YVRP model promises; (2) the Management Committee, composed of midlevel agency supervisors, which ensures that resources are available for frontline staff, principally through monthly meetings; and (3) the Steering Committee, composed of senior-level executives from the participating agencies, which meets every six to eight weeks to establish general directions for YVRP and to resolve differences among agencies.
The YVRP attempts to keep program participants “alive at 25” using two key strategies (1) steering them away from violence through close and constant supervision and (2) providing them with the necessary supports and such services as schooling, jobs, drug treatment, and counseling services (which might also be provided for participants’ parents) to set them on a path to productive adulthood through relationships with responsible, helpful adults. These strategies are implemented by an Intervention Team consisting of probation officers, police, and mentors. Probation officers travel with police officers to make sure the probation officers are safe when they meet with these high-risk youths in their homes or in the community. Police accompany probation officers on home visits and also engage in community policing. The police and the probation officers both check drug corners to make sure the participants in the program are not returning to their old drug gangs. When participants break rules, probation officers can initiate an “expedited punishment” process with swift and certain consequences.
Another critical link in this effort to keep the high-risk participants in the program safe is the street workers, or mentors. These outreach staff are typically in their 20s or early 30s and usually grew up in the same police district. Many have credibility with the youths because they themselves have struggled with neighborhood gangs, drugs, crime, and violence. The street workers link participants with community resources, either directly or through a referral network. The street mentors attempt to meet with each youth in the program at least 24 times each month. The probation officers not only have formal meetings with each of the youths every week, but they try to see these youths three more times a week at their homes or out in the community.
An evaluation examined ten years of youth homicide data in the two targeted police districts. The number of youth homicides per month dropped more than seen in citywide data after the program was implemented. The researcher (McClanahan, 2004) argues that it is unlikely that other crime prevention programs under way citywide or other possible explanations such as unemployment trends could account for the much greater decline in youth homicides in these two districts.
Exposure to firearm violence
Few social ties (involved in social activities, popularity)
High alcohol/drug use
High drug dealing
Illegal gun ownership/carrying
Family history of problem behavior/criminal involvement
Family poverty/low family socioeconomic status
Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)
Living in a small house
Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)
Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure
Poorly organized and functioning schools/inadequate school climate/negative labeling by teachers
Availability and use of drugs in the neighborhood
Availability of firearms
Economic deprivation/poverty/residence in a disadvantaged neighborhood
Exposure to violence and racial prejudice
Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood
Neighborhood physical disorder
Neighborhood youth in trouble
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
Association with gang-involved peers/relatives
Peer alcohol/drug use
National Gang Center and OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Promising program
Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network
2700 North 17th Street
Suite 200, Lehigh Pavilion
Philadelphia, PA 19132
Phone: (215) 940-0550
McClanahan, W. S. (2004). Alive at 25: Reducing Youth Violence Through Monitoring and Support. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures.
Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. (2004). Caught in the Crossfire: Arresting Gang Violence by Investing in Kids. Washington, DC: Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.
Campos, P., Farley, C., Kauh, T., Manning, A., McClanahan, W. (2012). Illuminating Solutions: The Youth Violence Reduction Partnership. Philadelphia, PA: Public/Private Ventures