Resource Focuses on Partnering with Faith Community to Prevent Gang Crime

March 26, 2012

by Michael Karpman

NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF) and the National Council on Crime and Delinquency have released the 25th and final bulletin of the California Cities Gang Prevention Network, a 13-city initiative launched in 2007 to identify strategies for reducing gang violence and victimization.

Written by Jack Calhoun, director of the network and senior consultant to both the YEF Institute and the U.S. Department of Justice's National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention, the bulletin includes tips and strategies for "Partnering with the Faith Community to Prevent Youth and Gang Crime."

Network cities, which include Fresno, Los Angeles, Oakland, Oxnard, Richmond, Sacramento, Salinas, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San José, Santa Rosa and Stockton, have engaged local clergy and faith communities in the development of comprehensive action plans to reduce gang violence.

These community members and leaders have been especially valuable partners in advancing approaches that balance enforcement strategies with prevention and intervention.

The bulletin highlights numerous forms of help that faith communities can offer, including:

  • Providing an alternative to the personal appeal and group connections offered by gangs;
  • Reducing risk factors and strengthening protective factors that influence whether or not youth participate in gangs and criminal activity;
  • Connecting gang-involved youth with adults who can help them leave the gang;
  • Mobilizing congregants, volunteers, neighborhood watches and community improvement initiatives; and
  • Building trust between local government and crime-plagued communities.

Among the examples highlighted in the bulletin are Oxnard, Calif., where a Police-Clergy Council - composed of clergy, 200 police officers and 100 service providers and city and county officials - connects gang-involved youth to a range of intervention programs led by faith community and law enforcement volunteers.

In Salinas, Calif., clergy join police on crisis response teams to support and comfort families victimized by violence and prevent further violence from occurring. Following an annual Mayor's Faith Community Luncheon, they have begun organizing adopt-a-neighborhood efforts that include cleanups and opening of church doors to afterschool programs for youth.

The bulletin also offers useful guidance on navigating local government relationships with faith communities, including recognition of the capacity challenges that smaller faith communities face, the value of working with existing interfaith committees to ensure broad faith community representation and legal issues related to the use of public funds by faith-based groups.

Details: For the full collection of California Cities Gang Prevention Network bulletins, visit www.ccgpn.org. The network website also includes several municipal action guides on topics such as prevention, evaluation, street outreach and reentry services, as well as the network's toolkit on Preventing Gang Violence and Building Communities where Young People Thrive. These and other violence prevention resources are available on the NLC website at /find-city-solutions/iyef/violence-prevention. The California Cities Gang Prevention Network is funded by the California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation.