Many states and local authorities have taken steps and dedicated resources to prevent juvenile crime. Local law enforcement agencies will often identify and work with young people who are deemed to be at risk for joining gangs or being involved in crime and will work to educate and offer alternatives.
The prevention of juveniles from joining gangs is critical since the average age for joining gangs is between the ages of 13 and 15. Juveniles join gangs for a variety of reasons which include: a sense of belonging, enhanced status among peers, protection, financial incentives, access to drugs and alcohol, or to have a tough reputation. Efforts to prevent this type of behavior focus on academic achievements, positive social connections, proactive parenting all targeting youth who are growing up in “at risk” neighborhoods.
Many local communities work to educate and provide alternatives to at-risk youth and will offer resources to parents and schools in order to prevent crime and deter minors from entering the criminal justice system. These local community programs are focused on reducing truancy rates, improving scholastic achievement, increasing high school graduation rates, improving self-confidence and self-esteem, deterring exposure to gangs and gang involvement, improving skills in peaceful conflict resolution, and generally decreasing violence and other unlawful behavior.
Various other programs that are aimed at juvenile crime prevention are focused on parental education. Police departments across the nation in collaboration with other government agencies offer parents the skills to aid them in becoming better parents. These parenting classes and programs are geared towards creating an environment where juveniles and parents can collaborate on strategies to deter children from the temptation of alcohol, drugs, money and other pitfalls of the gang life.
Similar to deterrence programs other programs focus on gang intervention. These intervention programs are designed to reduce criminal activity in gangs by persuading recruits and active gang members to renounce their membership or affiliation with a gang. Some warning signs that a minor is being recruited by a gang include: engaging in graffiti, wearing items of clothing of a particular color, tattoos, bruises or injuries which are evidence of gang initiations or “getting jumped in,” flashing unusual hand signs, and other signs of abnormal behavior. In response to the gang life these intervention type programs have been focused on juvenile group activities which include: community meetings, juvenile sports activities and programs, tutoring, and counseling.
Other forms of gang intervention that has been effective are providing jobs to former gang members which allow them to enjoy the successes of an honest paying job. Various grassroots projects have seen great success by employing former gang members and providing them an alternative to gang life. These various employers provide a wide range of skills and training for those at risk which has been viewed by former adolescent gang members as positive. Despite the best efforts of the various programs that are focused on juvenile crime prevention the lure of the gang life still seems to entice juveniles to join gangs or engage in other forms of criminal behavior.