Once a group gains the trust of neighborhood gangs and manages to encourage some positive community activities, the group should then seek support from area businesses and organizations to encourage such behavior. Teenagers often become involved with gangs because they want structure and security. Lacking such qualities at home, teenagers find such qualities within gangs, which have strong, defined hierarchies, specific rules and clearly defined behavior expectations. It no surprise that homes where there is little discipline, unclear or vague expectations, and little or no authority tend to produce teenagers that are most likely to participate in gangs. For that reason, teenagers that show a willingness to participate more positively in society should be encouraged by community organizations and businesses. Local organizations and businesses can do this by providing employment or membership to former gang members who have refuted their criminal pasts. By finding acceptance in community oriented organizations, juvenile delinquents more likely to feel part of the community and are less likely to try and harm it.
There are several ways to measure the ROI or return on investment in such a program. The most direct method would be to compare the rate of juvenile crime from the beginning of the program and monitor the rates throughout its inception and after its full implementation. However, there are other causes to fluctuations in crime rates including population increases or decreases and economic factors. To confirm the program's influence on changes in juvenile crime in an area, it's important to measure other changes that come about as a result of the program. For example, it would be beneficial to survey neighborhood residents before the program's inception and throughout implementation and completion of the program on their opinions of the level of safety, cleanliness, community involvement, and friendliness of the neighborhood. In addition, the appearance of the neighborhood should be monitored as well as test results and the outlook of teenagers from the neighborhood.
Quantifiable or anecdotal evidence would include the stories and opinions of neighborhood residents. An effective program would bring about more positive attitudes about the neighborhood, its appearance and its youth from residents. Qualifiable or evidence based on hard numbers would include the test scores of neighborhood teenagers, high school graduation rates, employment rates and college acceptable rates. Most importantly, qualifiable evidence would include crime rates of juvenile offenders. Rising test scores and falling crime rates would be an indication that the program is successful. Opposite results -- falling test scores and rising crime rates would be an indication of failure.
While the Chicago Area Project has been successful in combating juvenile crime for over 60 years in Chicago, many other American cities remain powerless over the increasing influence of gangs in the inner city areas. With funding for community-oriented projects decreasing as they are for schools and other public projects, it is incumbent upon inner city residents to work together to combat juvenile crime. Residents concerned about the safety of their streets, their residents and their children should organize and find more positive alternatives for their adolescents and young adults. While today's still struggling economy has dealt a blow to funding for national and state community improvement organizations, this problem may spur residents of inner city neighborhoods to see their own solutions. And in doing so, inner city residents may find that they possess within themselves far more powerful and effective solutions than any well funded, outside organization could have provided.
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