Youth and community violence are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on victims, their families, and entire communities. Prevention of community violence is possible. A strong and growing research base shows that multiple prevention strategies are scientifically proven to reduce violence and associated risk factors.
CDC has summarized the best available evidence in A Comprehensive Technical Package for the Prevention of Youth Violence and Associated Risk Behaviors. This technical package represents a select group of strategies to help communities and states sharpen their focus on prevention activities with the greatest potential to prevent youth and community violence and its consequences. The Division of Violence Prevention (DVP) is in the process of updating and expanding this technical package and has developed this summary table with descriptions of newly added examples that meet the criteria for inclusion (i.e., meta-analyses or systematic reviews or rigorous experimental or quasi-experimental* evaluation studies on youth or community violence or on risk and protective factors). The examples provided are not intended to be a comprehensive list of evidence-based programs, policies, or practices for each approach but rather illustrate models that have been shown to decrease youth or community violence victimization or perpetration or have beneficial effects on risk or protective factors for youth or community violence. More in-depth information about the new examples is provided below. Learn more about implementation resources and considerations on Violence Prevention in Practice.
* Quasi-experimental designs are those without random assignment and include a range of designs. Random assignment is not always possible in evaluations of youth and community violence programs, policies, and practices conducted in real-world settings.
Preventing Youth Violence and Community Violence
|Strategy||Approach||Example Programs, Policies, and Practices|
|Strengthen economic supports (new)||
|Promote Family Environments that Support Healthy Development||
|Provide Quality Education Early in Life||
|Strengthen Young People’s Skills||
|Connect Youth to Caring Adults and Activities||
|Create Protective Environments||
|Intervene to Lessen Harms and Prevent Future Risk||
Strengthen Economic Supports
Summary: Tax credits for families with children like state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC), help individuals and families with lower incomes increase their income while incentivizing work. The federal EITC is one example. The amount of the federal EITC varies depending on income earned through work, marital status, and the number of qualifying children. States also have EITCs, which vary in eligibility requirements and funding amounts. State tax credit amounts are usually a percentage of the federal EITC. An analysis of state EITC laws found that implementing a high state EITC was associated with a 10% lower rate of violent crime. EITCs may also have important implications for addressing racial inequities. An analysis of EITC laws over time found that the EITC was associated with a reduction in income gaps among White and Black households in the bottom half of the income distribution. However, these reductions were only observed at the 50th and 25th percentile of the income distribution and not for households with very low incomes. These findings indicate that while EITC may help reduce Black or African American and White household income gaps for some groups, other individual and household economic supports may also be needed to fully address income gaps for households with the lowest incomes.
Lead Sectors: Government, Treasury
Hardy, B., Hokayem, C., & Ziliak, J.P. (2022). Income inequality, race, and the EITC. National Tax Journal, 75(1). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/717959 external icon
Lenhart, O. (2021). Earned income tax credit and crime. Contemporary Economic Policy, 39(3), 589-607. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/coep.12522external icon
Strengthen Young People’s Skills
Summary: Year Up, a national training program, teaches students in urban communities high-demand technical and professional skills, connects them with employers, and provides college credits through agreements with local colleges. The full-time program provides a range of extensive supports, including weekly stipends to help cover transportation and other program-related expenses. A randomized controlled trial of Year Up found associations between participation in the program and protective factors for youth and community violence, including increases in employment, higher earnings, and reductions in financial hardships.
Lead Sectors: Business, Education, Government
Fein, D., & Hamadyk, J. (2018). Bridging the opportunity divide for low-income youth: Implementation and early impacts of the Year Up program. OPRE Report #2018-65 (and Appendices). Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://www.yearup.org/sites/default/files/2019-03/Year-Up-PACE-Full-Report-2018.pdf
Summer youth employment programs
Summary: While the focus varies, summer youth employment programs often provide work experience to youth and young adults (up to age 25) with wages paid or supplemented by local government agencies. Programs can also provide adult mentoring and various training related to job preparedness and life skills. Multiple randomized controlled trials (RCTs) find promising effects for violence prevention. While the effects on other outcomes (e.g., academic success and future employment) vary and are often small, effects on violent crime, can be substantial. For example, an RCT in Chicago found a 43% reduction in violent crime over 16 months for high school students in the jobs program relative to those in the control condition. A similar study in Boston found a 35% reduction in violent crime during the 17 months after youth participated in a summer youth employment program.
Lead Sectors: Business, Education, Government
Heller, S.B. (2014). Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth. Science. 346 (6214): pp. 1219-1223. DOI: 10.1126/science.1257809
Modestino, A. S. (2019). How do summer youth employment programs improve criminal justice outcomes, and for whom?. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 38(3), 600-628. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/pam.22138
Lehman, C. F. (2021). Crime-Fighting Lessons from Summer Youth Employment Programs. Manhattan Institute. Retrieved from https://media4.manhattan-institute.org/sites/default/files/lehman-SYEP-layout.pdfpdf iconexternal icon
Create Protective Community Environments
School restorative justice programs
Summary: School restorative justice (RJ) programs build relationships to resolve conflict and avoid harm instead of suspending or expelling students. RJ programs and practices (like peer mediation) are usually implemented as an alternative to traditional policies that are punishment-focused and remove or exclude students from their usual educational settings (like zero-tolerance policies). RJ includes formal and informal practices that help students repair harm, improve relationships, and teach students how to work together in proactive, respectful ways to constructively resolve conflicts. A systematic review of 34 studies, including 6 randomized controlled trials and one quasi-experimental study, found that restorative practices are associated with a range of benefits relative to traditional discipline practices, including lower rates of aggression and bullying, as well as fewer suspensions and expulsions. Restorative justice programs have the potential to reduce the racial and ethnic inequities and harmful consequences of zero-tolerance policies.
Lead Sectors: Education, Community Organizations
Lodi, E., Perrella, L., Lepri, G. L., Scarpa, M. L., and Patrizi, P. (2022). Use of restorative justice and restorative practices at school: A systematic literature review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(1), 96. DOI: https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/1/96/pdfexternal icon
Augustine, C., Engberg, J., Grimm, G., Lee, E., Wang, E.L., Christianson, K., and Joseph, A. (2018). Can Restorative Practices Improve School Climate and Curb Suspensions? An Evaluation of the Impact of Restorative Practices in a Mid-Sized Urban School District. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. DOI: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR2840.html
Compulsory education laws
Summary: Compulsory education laws require children to attend school until they reach a certain age. State laws vary regarding the minimum age for students to leave school. Studies using quasi-experimental approaches to compare crime rates across locations with varying policies find that a higher minimum age for a student to leave school (from 16 to 18 years old) is associated with lower rates of youth community crime and violence. For example, one study found that compulsory education is associated with a 23% lower violent crime arrest rate for males in this age group. Some evidence suggests that raising the minimum age to leave school may have an even greater effect on crime in communities with larger proportions of Black or African American residents. Other evidence suggests that a higher minimum dropout age may increase some school-related risks of victimization among females and younger students. Overall, it is important to consider the supports that are available to older adolescents and younger students in school to reduce the potential for victimization and promote positive behavior and academic success (e.g., restorative justice, skills training).
Lead Sectors: Government, Education
Anderson, D. M. (2014). In school and out of trouble? The minimum dropout age and juvenile crime. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 96(2), 318–331. DOI: http://www.jstor.org/stable/43554933external icon
Anderson, D. M., Hansen, B., and Walker, M. B. (2013). The minimum dropout age and student victimization. Economics of Education Review, 35(2), 66-74. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2013.03.005external icon
Forhad, M.A.R. (2021). Minimum dropout age and juvenile crime in the USA). Eastern Economics Journal, 47, 378–405. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41302-020-00184-2external icon
Chicago Safe Passage
Summary: Chicago Safe Passage provides students safe routes to and from school by placing highly visible community members along these routes to monitor and assist with students’ safe travel. Community members are hired as safe passage workers, also referred to as guards, and their role is to be physically present on routes students usually take to and from school. Safe passage workers are trained on conflict de-escalation strategies and have reporting protocols for violent behavior. Studies using quasi-experimental methods that compare differences in crime before and after implementation indicate that, in addition to benefits for school attendance, the program is associated with significant reductions in overall crime in monitored areas relative to non-monitored areas, including 14% to 18% lower rates of violent crimes.
Lead Sectors: Education, Business, Community Organizations
McMillen, D., Sarmiento-Barbieri, I., and Singh, R. (2019). Do more eyes on the street reduce Crime? Evidence from Chicago’s Safe Passage program. Journal of Urban Economics, 110, 1-25. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jue.2019.01.001external icon
Gonzalez, R., and Komisarow, S. (2020). Community monitoring and crime: Evidence from Chicago’s Safe Passage Program. Journal of Public Economics, 191, 104250. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpubeco.2020.104250