Street by Street: Cross-Site Evaluation of the OJJDP Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program
November 28, 2016
by Kathleen A. Tomberg and Jeffrey A. Butts
with Hannah Adler, Laila Alsabahi, Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill, Michelle Cubellis, Sheyla Delgado, Douglas Evans, Alana Henninger, Jennifer Lynn-Whaley, Marissa Mandala, Megan O’Toole, Jennifer Peirce, Emily Pelletier, Caterina Gouvis Roman, Maggie Schmuhl, and Caitlin Taylor
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) provided funds to the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JohnJayREC) to conduct a process and outcome evaluation of the Office’s Community Based Violence Prevention (CBVP) demonstration in five cities across the United States. Programmatic grants in the CBVP demonstration varied in amount, but were typically $2 million per city. The funds usually supported projects for two to four years between 2010 and 2014.
All the city projects in CBVP shared common elements, such as their overall objectives and core principles, an inter-agency collaborative approach, a focus on specific geographic areas, demographic groups and identified “high risk” youth. Cities varied, however, in the implementation of their strategies. Not surprisingly, the cities also differed in the nature, dynamics, and driving factors behind youth violence and gang activity in their local areas. This influenced the overall design and implementation of the program, as well as the type and availability of data.
Although the five city projects all included law enforcement, youth services, job training, and other nonprofit social services, the structure and content of these institutional roles assumed different configurations in each location. This is clear in the project management structure across cities. In three sites – Oakland, Newark, and Denver – a specific city agency led project development and implementation, with service provision assigned to nonprofit organizations. In Brooklyn and Washington, DC, nonprofit organizations with strong neighborhood roots designed and implemented the programs. In these cases, they collaborated closely with key city agencies (notably, the police, probation, and youth services) and with other nonprofit service providers.
Many details of program implementation were different in each CBVP location, regardless of the institutions involved. Some cities had teams in which a coherent staff group with clear roles supervised the majority of program activities, including monitoring their data about services and outcomes. Other cities had a more diffuse approach, with staff from multiple organizations holding program responsibilities and minimal coordination from a single entity. While one of the strengths of the OJJDP-CBVP funding model was its emphasis on adaptation to local context and needs, this variation across program sites posed serious challenges for the evaluation team’s efforts to assess and compare the experiences and outcomes in each city.
The CBVP program in Brooklyn took place in one sector of Crown Heights, a neighborhood with a long record of high crime and violence that more recently began to face gentrification. The Crown Heights CBVP program was arguably the most coherent in its theoretical model and the most comprehensive in its implementation. The Center for Court Innovation, a large and well-known nonprofit organization, developed the program “Save Our Streets (SOS) Crown Heights,” which is based entirely on the public health model of violence interruption known as “Cure Violence.” The central idea in this approach is that violence is transmitted within a community like a contagious disease, and that law enforcement tactics (arrests, threats of prosecution) are not a sufficient long-term response. The program treats violence as a “virus” that can be “interrupted” or halted through interventions that alter community norms (such as tolerating violence as a ‘normal’ way to solve conflicts). During the CBVP project, violent crime fell across Brooklyn as a whole, and it was impossible to discern any reduction in crime that could be attributed to the program.
A local nonprofit organization led the CBVP project in Washington, DC. The Collaborative Solutions for Communities (known colloquially as The Collaborative) implemented the Creating Solutions Together (CST) program in the Columbia Heights and Shaw neighborhoods of central Washington from 2010 to 2013. The program model was inspired by a previous project, the Gang Intervention Project, which had been in place since 2003 and mapped out gang dynamics and incidents, enabling more focused and strategic responses by police and social services.
The CST program employed a core group of outreach workers who were familiar with the youth and their contexts. Outreach workers drew heavily on the public health and violence interruption model of Cure Violence (Chicago) in fashioning their methods for responding to acts of violence—at hospitals, funerals, schools, and in the streets. The outreach workers used mediation and “cooling down” tactics with individuals or groups to prevent retaliation. The program also offered services to at-risk youth who needed help finding pathways out of violence. Services often included counseling, GED education, and job training programs. Crime data from the neighborhoods in Washington, DC were not specific enough to discern a clear effect of the program on youth violence in targeted areas, although the amount of violent crime committed by juveniles citywide declined between 2006 and 2014.
In Denver, local government took the lead in program implementation. The Gang Reduction Initiative of Denver (GRID) focused specifically on gang violence in five sectors of Denver and it drew heavily on an established approach: the Comprehensive Gang Model (CGM). This model entails social services and supports for youth, in combination with law enforcement “suppression” tactics and the threat of legal penalties for group-affiliated youth who commit gun violence (similar to focused deterrence).
Violent crime trends in Denver were generally stable or slightly increasing during the CBVP project period (2010-2014), but the City’s crime data were not specific enough to determine whether or not the program was responsible for any of the changes. Denver experienced an increase in gang-related arrests that coincided with GRID implementation, but researchers could not determine whether this was due to the implementation of focused deterrence or if it was simply due to a more general “crackdown” tactic by police. Nonetheless, the GRID program undeniably catalyzed new and constructive inter-agency relationships and approaches to youth and violent crime in general–the effects of which may still emerge.
The City of Newark developed the CBVP program under the name Newark United Against Violence (NUAV), and it began implementation in 2013 in the South and Central Wards, with joint leadership by the Newark Office of Reentry and the Newark Police Department. The NUAV, like other CBVP cities, took a hybrid approach to existing violence-reduction models, and combined hotspot policing, focused deterrence, and some elements of the violence interruption public health model (Cure Violence). Data on violent crime and youth crime in Newark, like other cities, showed an overall decline. However, data for the specific program areas and participants were not available in Newark. Thus, it was not possible to determine whether the program had any effect on youth crime in the targeted program area.
The City of Oakland, led by the Department of Human Services, implemented its CBVP demonstration project known as Oakland Unite. The primary model that shaped the Oakland project was Cure Violence (public health and violence interruption), although Oakland also added elements of focused deterrence. Oakland Unite focused on specific neighborhoods and on the young people (under 25) most involved in violence, as victims and perpetrators. Data about crime trends in Oakland showed a notable decline in both shootings and homicides from 2012 to 2014. Moreover, the declines were stronger in the specific neighborhoods where Oakland Unite was most active. The intensity of program activity may have been associated with the more dramatic declines in shootings and homicides, but baseline and/or comparison data to determine a clear effect were not available. Oakland Unite is generally seen as an initiative that brought together disparate agencies into a more coherent approach to gang violence, and many of its activities have been sustained past the end of the grant because the City successfully passed new revenue sources dedicated to violence prevention.
In two CBVP demonstration sites, Brooklyn and Denver, the Research and Evaluation Center also conducted an outcome analysis using a survey of households. The surveys measured changes in attitudes and perceptions of violence over a two-year period and focused on four key concepts: disinclination toward gun violence, disinclination toward non-gun violence, perceived sense of safety in the neighborhood, and neighborhood efficacy or pro-social action. The results failed to detect clear effects of CBVP programming. In Brooklyn, the relative difference in neighborhood safety scores actually worsened, but this was due to the fact that equivalent scores in the comparison area improved–for reasons likely unrelated to CBVP. In Denver, there was some improvement in residents’ sense of safety in the program area, but not a statistically significant difference when contrasted with the comparison area.
While these results may seem to reflect less change than expected, it should not be surprising that no significant improvements in attitudes and perceptions were evident after only two to three years of program activity. Additional research over a longer period of time and with sufficient complexity to capture the inherent variations in individuals’ experiences and involvement with program activities may have revealed more meaningful effects of CBVP intervention.
The John Jay evaluation measured the possible effects of the CBVP initiative using a very rigorous standard—i.e. large-scale changes in violent crime and detectable improvements in attitudes about violence among the general public. Given the different approaches used in the five CBVP cities, the variations in their program designs and implementation efforts, and the different types of data available to researchers in each city, it was not possible for the evaluation to draw strong conclusions about the effects of the CBVP demonstration as a whole. In each city, however, researchers identified some potentially beneficial effects of the interventions implemented as part of CBVP. This report describes the efforts of each city and the lessons learned during implementation of CBVP.
by the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York (CUNY), and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice
John Jay College of Criminal Justice Research & Evaluation Center
524 59th Street, Suite 605BMW
New York, NY 10019
This project was supported by Grant No. 2010-MU-FX-0007 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official positions or policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of Justice.
Tomberg, Kathleen A. and Jeffrey A. Butts (2016). Street by Street: Cross-Site Evaluation of the OJJDP Community-Based Violence Prevention Demonstration Program. New York, NY: Research and Evaluation Center, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.
This report was prepared with support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), part of the U.S. Department of Justice and its Office of Justice Programs (OJP). The authors are grateful to the staff and leadership of OJJDP for their guidance and support during the development of this project. The authors are also especially grateful to Dr. Caterina Roman and the staff of the Institute for Social Research at Temple University who designed and implemented the project’s household surveys in Brooklyn and Denver.
The design and execution of a complicated project requires the efforts of many people. The authors are very grateful for the support and advice of the Office for the Advancement of Research and the Office of Sponsored Programs at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as well as assistance received from all current and former colleagues from the Research and Evaluation Center who contributed to this report: Hannah Adler, Laila Alsabahi, Rebecca Balletto, Kwan-Lamar Blount-Hill, Michelle Cubellis, Sheyla Delgado, Douglas Evans, Alana Henninger, Jennifer Lynn-Whaley, Marissa Mandala, Megan O’Toole, Jennifer Peirce, Emily Pelletier, Maggie Schmuhl, and Caitlin Taylor.