Preventing Youth Violence is Possible: CDC’s Technical Package Can Help

Hands in a pile


April 20, 2017

Youth violence is not inevitable. It is preventable. Working together, communities can stop youth violence before it starts. Significant, broad and lasting prevention requires a comprehensive approach. No single program or organization can do it alone. Preventing youth violence involves collaboration among many sectors—including justice, public health, social services, education and business.

To guide prevention efforts, CDC developed A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors. A technical package helps states and communities focus their collaborative action on strategies supported by the best available evidence. The strategies in CDC’s youth violence prevention technical package include:

  • Promote family environments that support healthy development
  • Provide quality education early in life
  • Strengthen youth’s skills
  • Connect youth to caring adults and activities
  • Create protective community environments
  • Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk.

CDC also has technical packages for preventing child abuse and neglect, sexual violence and suicide. All of the approaches and program/policy examples in these technical packages suggest specific ways to advance each strategy. Many of these have economic benefits for the justice, medical and educational systems that exceed implementation costs.

These strategies and approaches can have significant long-term benefits. Preschool enrichment and family engagement programs are associated with significantly lower rates of violence and arrests during adolescence and young adulthood. In addition, these programs are associated with significantly lower rates of child abuse and neglect, academic problems and substance use. For example, children who participated in the Child Parent Centers preschool program have lower rates of arrest at ages 20 and 24 and higher rates of high school completion, attendance in four-year colleges and full-time employment in adulthood.

Approaches are also available to lessen harms and prevent the continuation and escalation of youth violence. Law enforcement and courts can make referrals to programs designed for delinquent and violent youth. Approaches that engage multiple systems, such as the family, school, peers and neighborhood, are associated with significant reductions in participating youth’s re-arrests, violent crime and gang involvement. Siblings of participating youth also have significantly lower levels of criminal behavior.

Creating protective community environments by modifying physical structures and social activities can foster connectedness among residents and decrease violence. For example, Business Improvement Districts are public-private partnerships that collect resources from local merchants and property owners and invest them in local services and activities, such as street cleaning, landscaping, lighting and security. These activities can increase an area’s appeal, use by residents and the prosperity of businesses and community. An evaluation found this approach was associated with a 12 percent reduction in robberies, an 8 percent reduction in overall violent crime, and significant economic benefits from reduced crime rates, arrests and prosecution-related costs.

By strengthening family environments, promoting youth education and skill development, fostering healthy relationships and creating protective community environments, we can do more than help young people live safely. We can enable them, and their communities, to thrive without the threat of violence.

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