Gang violence

Gang violence continues to be a public policy issue in both major population centers and suburban and rural enclave. Numerous theories abound as to the best way to stem the tide of youth violence in general and gang activity in particular. One expert, John Calhoun, the founder of the National Crime prevention counsel has suggested five elements that contribute to resiliency in youth.

(Calhoun, 2006) These consist of a notion that young people should have that they control their own fate, that young people should have a skill to which they can point with pride, the presence of one reliable adult in their lives, a sense of hope or optimism in the future, and a sense of altruism. (Calhoun, 2006) There are programs at various stages of social intercession: prevention, intervention and suppression which seek to engender these elements.

(Calhoun, 2006) The commonwealth of Massachusetts has numerous programs that address each of these developmental phases and offer proven interventions to improve the chances of youth to avoid the violence of gang lifestyles. (Calhoun, 2006) Many programs in Massachusetts are designed to address youth violence in the prevention phase. One such program, entitled LIFT (Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers) illustrates many of the positive characteristics of prevention of youth gang activity.

(Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) An The program consists of three major elements in prevention. The first of these is in-class child social and decision-making skills development. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) A second element of LIFT is playground-based behavior modification, and the third is group-delivered parent training. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) LIFT has identified the public elementary school as an optimal point of prevention since a vast majority of youth attend, and elementary school if the first level of participation required by the state.

(Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) By offering the program to all students, LIFT avoids the difficulty of having to identify “at-risk” populations, as the program is implemented for the entire population. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) The classroom component of LIFT consists of an instructor visiting each class for one hour, two times a week for ten weeks. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) The content of the instruction consists of lecture and role-play on a specific set of problem-solving skills, small- and large- group practice exercises, free play time on the playground, skills review and daily rewards.

During the playground component, the children participate in a modified version of the Good Behavior game, which involves rewards for good behaviors and disincentives for bad behaviors. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) Individual awards are given to those who display positive behaviors and awards for groups who are able to inhibit negative behaviors in their own ranks.

(Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) For the parent component of the program, the representatives from LIFT meet with groups of 10-15 families for one hour a week and consist of review of the childrens’ weekly activities, lectures, role-plays and discussion, and the presentation of the home-practice component of the educational program. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) The LIFT program also contains comprehensive communication between program participants and family members.

In several studies, the LIFT program has been demonstrated to reduce the occurrence of anti-social and violent behaviors among student participants. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) This form of prevention targets the general population and has the advantage of also coving at-risk groups, and identifying those with home lives that may be conducive to violent behaviors, which, in turn can lead to gang-related activity. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000) This particular program deals with children ages six to ten, which falls squarely in the time range for preventative intervention. (Eddy, Reid & Fetrow, 2000)