After school programs (ASPs) receive considerable public funding and have been shown to reduce violent crime. Along with their other child-rearing and mentoring value, ASPs also provide youth development and task-force activities which may decrease delinquent behavior. However, research on the after school programs of schools in disadvantaged neighborhoods indicate that many of these programs have little to no impact on reducing crime. In fact, some research suggests that a decrease in crime may even be harmful for those who live in these environments.
There are many theories surrounding why after school programs in low-income neighborhoods fail to curb delinquency and criminal activity. The lack of effective after school programs results in a need for increased investments in community prevention strategies and practices. This includes increased investments in training programs and mentoring by concerned community members. Many professionals believe that one of the most important components of a comprehensive after-school program is effective communication between teachers and students on subjects such as reading, writing, and math. By implementing policies that train teachers and staff to become skilled in assessing and implementing positive behavioral intervention strategies, school districts can improve the quality of after school programs in the communities that they serve.
According to research, there are three important factors that drive juvenile delinquency. These are family environment, sex, and poverty/food security. These factors impact the activities of children in the home, but they also influence the criminal behaviors of youth in the community. By promoting healthy relationships among children, focusing on values-based schooling, and promoting healthy behaviors through a good network of friends, a community can greatly reduce juvenile delinquency and its associated negative outcomes.
Community-based policing is a key component of efforts to keep kids safe. Police officers play an important role in deterring crime by responding quickly and effectively to calls for service and arresting criminals as soon as they are identified. By placing police officers in high-crime areas, neighborhoods can lower crime rates overall and curb neighborhood-related violence. Through a combination of surveillance and community engagement, a police department can increase the number of apprehensions for serious and violent offenders, thus reducing juvenile victimization and school dropout rates. After school programs can also play a critical role in keeping kids away from the risks that bring down their parents.
One method that many cities have utilized is the creation of after-school initiatives. A few years ago, the administrators of a middle school in Tennessee Valley City began assembling a “girls club,” which offered a diverse range of after-school programming for both boys and girls. The “girls club” included after-school tutors, a science project that focused on science, art, and math, computer activities, and organized field trips. The objective was to create a safe environment for both boys and girls, as well as to foster community respect and responsibility. Since its inception, the club has grown to include many different interests and activities, such as chess, art and music lessons, Bible study, swimming, karate, nature study, and even cooking!
Communities throughout the southern part of the United States have long been at risk for crime. Some cities, like that of San Mateo, California, have made a name for themselves as being hot spots for law enforcement agencies. The average population in the area is less than 30% female, yet it is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse places in the country. In light of these demographics, the chief of police in San Mateo stated that the city was especially worried about issues related to gang activity, particularly with respect to girls. The San Mateo Police Department has taken a proactive stance with regard to gang prevention, launching an anti- gangs initiative and task force, as well as holding numerous organized community awareness events.
Programs that address juvenile crime are very important to law enforcement agencies in Tennessee Valley cities. According to the National District Attorney’s Office, four of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies are currently participating in a wide variety of after-school programs. Among them are the FBI, U.S. Marshals, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. The Multi-Family Homicide Alternative Policing Program, or MPHAP, was created by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to supplement their efforts in dealing with more violent crime. The multi-faceted program consists of after-school programs, task forces, and community education initiatives.
Law enforcement agencies throughout the nation have recognized the necessity for quality after-school programs. In fact, a number of them have formed partnerships with community organizations in an attempt to address the concerns of at-risk youth. These relationships have proven to be extremely valuable, not only to law enforcement agencies but to those who are interested in preventing crime. The relationships have allowed for increased communication, cooperation, and collaboration between various law enforcement agencies and community groups.