Preliminary Evaluation Results
Ongoing evaluation of the school-based intervention project has been conducted since the programs inception in 1998. Through the pretest, the evaluation aims to document baseline levels of violence exposure, symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), symptoms of other types of anxiety and depression, and attitudes toward community police officers.
Preliminary results show both a serious need for intervention in this population and (when evaluated in combination with posttest results) some promising outcomes of the intervention. Levels of violence exposure and PTSD symptomatology were high in the pretests and supported the assumption that children participating in the groups were exposed to high levels of community violence. For example, results indicate that 29 percent of all New Haven students participating in the groups have been threatened with serious harm, and 49 percent have seen someone else threatened with serious harm. Sixty-five percent have seen someone beaten or mugged, 31 percent have seen someone being attacked or stabbed, and 11 percent have been attacked or stabbed themselves. Nearly half (47 percent) have seen a seriously wounded person after a fight, and one-third (31 percent) have seen a shooting or attempted shooting.
Test findings and anecdotal data support the impression that youth in these neighborhoods are highly concerned about violence in their community. In general, more than half of these children reported fears and worries related to violence exposure. For example, 69 percent reported that they are afraid they might do something bad, 67 percent reported worrying that something bad will happen to them, and 81 percent reported that they are bothered by thoughts of death.
Past survey results indicate that the greatest change following participation in the Community Outreach through Police in Schools Program can be found in students emotional and psychological functioning. After completing the group sessions, students reported being less nervous, less worried about what is going to happen to them, less bothered by thoughts of death, and less worried at bedtime, and they also reported that their feelings are hurt less easily. In general, the majority of students demonstrated positive changes in their overall emotional responses over time. Therefore, the program seems most successful in helping children discuss their feelings and improve their overall level of emotional functioning. Although past survey results indicated positive changes in attitudes toward police officers, current findings are more mixed. However, positive changes are still evident when comparing results from pretest to posttest. For example, survey results indicate that, postparticipation, significantly fewer students believed negative statements about police officers such as police beat up on people for no reason or police try to act like big shots. Thus, the Community Outreach through Police in Schools inter vention appears to not only improve childrens ability to express and cope with the emotional consequences of exposure to violence, but also to improve their relationships with community police officers.