Each day, 155 children are arrested for violent crimes. (1
) Violence among youth — especially gang-related violence — is a growing problem in urban areas, but also in suburbs and rural regions. Youth from low-income backgrounds are most susceptible to participation in gang activity as they seek security and acceptance.
Gang activity, a growing problem
In the United States, there are approximately 760,000 gang members and 24,000 gangs active in more than 2,900 jurisdictions served by city and county law enforcement.(2
) Girls account for one-fourth to one-third of adolescent gang members.(3
Gang involvement is clearly harmful to a young person’s well-being. Juveniles who reported belonging to a gang were twice as likely as other juveniles to have committed a major theft; three times more likely to have sold drugs; and five times more likely to have carried a handgun. (4
Working with violence-affected youth in the U.S.
God’s concern for the poor and vulnerable extends to all children, including those living in the United States. World Vision’s U.S. Programs teams work in neighborhoods and communities characterized by poverty and violent crime, including juvenile crime. Conditions in these communities can produce a sense of despair among local youth. Without intervention, these young people are likely to be denied the opportunity to experience life in all its fullness.
Through World Vision's Youth Empowerment Project, youth learn to become key participants in making their communities safe, nurturing places for all residents. The project features community-based mentoring as a key element of every activity.
These activities focus on reducing risk factors and increasing protective factors in the lives of young people through leadership development, service to others, and civic engagement.
The project consists of two programs: Advocacy Training and the Youth Empowerment Summit.
The Youth Empowerment Summit is the culminating event of the Advocacy Training. The four-day summit in Washington, D.C., offers young people from World Vision’s U.S. Programs sites across the nation the opportunity to experience civic engagement firsthand. At the summit, graduates of the Advocacy Training present their proposals for addressing community needs to their respective federal lawmakers.
Some 130 young people from from New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Seattle, Tacoma, Wash., Mississippi, Southwest Georgia, and West Virginia participated in the summit this year.
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World Vision's advocacy for youth
Keeping our streets safe is important. However, World Vision’s experience teaches us that a balanced, community-based approach to prevention, intervention, and suppression efforts is the most effective way to tackle youth violence.
World Vision advocates for a more comprehensive approach to addressing youth violence. Community-based responses equip and empower community members to address the roots of the violence in their midst, and to design sustainable strategies that build safe communities. Proven to be just as or even more effective than just suppression methods — and also less costly — violence prevention and intervention strategies are critical to reducing the involvement of young people in violent, destructive behavior.Back to top
The “Youth PROMISE” Act
World Vision supports the passage of H.R. 1064/S.435, the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (“Youth PROMISE”) Act.
Under the Youth PROMISE Act, communities facing the greatest youth gang and crime challenges will form a local council. This council will include representatives from:
- Community-based organizations, including faith-based organizations
- Social services
- Physical- and mental-health providers
- Law enforcement
- Court services
The council will develop a plan for implementing prevention and intervention strategies. These strategies will focus on young people at risk of becoming involved with gangs and will provide productive and law-abiding alternatives to steer them away from a life of crime and violence.
The Youth PROMISE Act also calls for more youth-oriented policing to encourage a strong collaboration between law enforcement and the community. The bill requests more training and capacity-building for law enforcement officials to learn about youth development trends and build support for prevention and intervention strategies. These provisions emphasize the important role law enforcement plays in the community-wide effort to reduce and prevent youth violence.
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- Pray for youth caught up in violent activity, and pray for organizations and individuals who reach out to these young people to offer them healthy, safe alternatives.
- Send a message to your members of Congress. Ask them to support the Youth PROMISE Act, which would establish an integrated, community-based strategy of prevention, intervention, and suppression to reduce violent youth activity.
- Make a donation to give high-risk young people the tools they desperately need to walk away from negative influences and behaviors and into a brighter future.
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- Children's Defense Fund: Each day in America
- U.S. Department of Justice: National Youth Gang Survey, 2004 (PDF)
- U.S. Department of Justice: National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997
- U.S. Department of Justice: Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 2006 National Report