The Importance of Community Involvement

Community involvement is crucial to reducing street crime and gang activity. Police departments acknowledge the importance of partnering with the communities they police in order to create safer and healthier environments. Property owners, parents, and individuals living in communities affected by gang violence are motivated to enhance the safety of their neighborhoods. Many communities have developed highly effective programs to address the problem of teen violence and gangs. The most successful ones originate from locals who really know and understand their kids and the particular issues they face. These community groups utilize various means to reach troubled youth who are at risk for gang membership. Involving local adults, professionals, businesses, schools, churches, and the police, these groups are reducing youth violence. Mentoring an at-risk young person is a critical way to get involved in helping your community address gang activity. There are many groups that match mentors with youth, basing the match on interests, goals, and scheduling factors. Offering to teach skills to youth in after-school programs or coaching sports and other activities is another way to reach out to at-risk youth. Many young people lack the space and resources needed to channel their youthful energy in healthy, stress-reducing, and fun ways. When offered alternative ways of teaming up with their peers, young people have less of a need to look for support or group empowerment from membership in a gang. Neighborhood watch organizations create a sense of community and are effective crime-reducers. Block parties, barbecues, and potlucks bring people together, allowing them to get to know, trust, and provide neighborly support to one another. Inviting adults who were former gang members to speak to youth is another way of reaching out effectively to at-risk kids. These individuals usually have powerful insights that are invaluable to young people and can speak with authority about the perils of gang membership. Business owners and other professionals can offer internship possibilities to local youth, providing young people with needed, empowering skills and training. In return, the adults benefit greatly from the youthful vitality and creativity of their interns. Research shows that job training is a powerful tool to reduce gang violence. The key to success in all these efforts is working with others, partnering with police, churches, schools, and neighbors to make your community a safer, happier, and more prosperous place to live.