|Building Credibility in Street Outreach|
|By National Gang Center - Fall 2013 Newsletter|
As an important component of comprehensive gang control strategies, street outreach programs across the United States seek to reach out to marginalized youth and young adults who may be involved in delinquent or violent gang behaviors. Most current street outreach programs have not been evaluated, and there is still no consensus regarding the most successful best practices for street outreach programs. To discuss the intricacies of outreach programs, OJJDP recently convened a panel of outreach program practitioners at the Third Annual Summit on Preventing Youth Violence. The panel discussed emerging best practices in street outreach based on panelists’ experiences in implementing outreach programs.
Street outreach workers, also known by other titles such as gang outreach workers and gang interventionists, play an integral role in gang violence reduction initiatives. Although numerous outreach programs have been implemented differently, the broad purpose of the outreach worker encompasses advocacy and mentoring, conflict resolution, and crisis response. The role of a street outreach worker includes engaging gang members as clients; assisting them and their families in accessing needed social and education services; reducing clients’ bonds to gangs as well as their participation in gang-related conflict and violence; and being a positive adult role model in a mentoring relationship with gang members.
Outreach work is not a 9-to-5 job. It takes grit, passionate dedication, and strong commitment to the community and to the targeted population outreach staff work with. Formerly incarcerated individuals returning to their communities, who may have a past in gang involvement, make powerful change agents, with immense capacity to connect with gang-involved youth and their families. However, the risk of hiring former gang members or ex-offenders can present significant challenges to the credibility of an outreach program and its perceived trustworthiness for law enforcement.
The summit panel discussion focused on this central challenge for street outreach programs that is evident across divergent programs: building program credibility which includes developing effective cooperative relationships with law enforcement. Summit panelists provided a number of suggestions that can be summed up as follows:
Reprinted - National Gang Center - Fall 2013 Newsletter
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