5: Addressing Youth Crime

Despite alarming reports of juvenile violence, youth crime has actually been in decline since 1995. But incidents of youth crime, such as high-profile school violence, remain too common.

OJJDP's Comprehensive Strategy for Serious, Violent, and Chronic Juvenile Offenders is based on the premise that youth violence rarely happens suddenly - it is the end result of a progression from problem behavior, to noncriminal misbehavior, to delinquency, to serious and violent offending. By intervening before this pattern begins, and at multiple points when patterns of behavior leading to violence are underway, communities can stop youth violence before it occurs. The key to effective intervention is a multidisciplinary approach that relies on families and core social institutions such as schools, churches, and community organizations as the first point of contact for at-risk youth. The underlying premises of the Comprehensive Strategy are that delinquency prevention and intervention programs should be integrated with local police, social service, child welfare, school, and family preservation programs; and community planning teams with a broad base of participants will develop consensus around problems and priorities and build support for comprehensive, integrated, collaborative solutions.

The plan is dedicated to supporting healthy youth development and the primary prevention of juvenile crime. It recognizes, however, that some youth still will enter the juvenile justice system, and these youth must be held accountable for their actions. The six key principles of the Comprehensive Strategy are:


In response to incidents of violence at schools, OJJDP continued its efforts to prevent school violence, and respond to it in the rare instances it does occur. Although data show that children are generally safer at school than elsewhere in the community, tragedies such as the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado highlight the need for increased attention to school safety. In FY 1999, OJJDP continued its ongoing school safety initiatives, and stepped up efforts to make schools and their communities safer by reducing youth gun violence.

In September 1999, the President announced more than $100 million in grants to 54 communities to make schools safer and help protect young people from aggressive and violent behavior, as well as drug and alcohol use. The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative is an unprecedented joint partnership among the Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services. The grants are supporting comprehensive, community-wide strategies for creating safe and drug-free schools and promoting healthy childhood development. The strategies combine safe school policies with youth alcohol and drug prevention, violence prevention, and early intervention, school and community mental health programs, early childhood services, and educational reform.

OVC provided assistance to Littleton, Colorado and other communities that experienced school violence. OVC supplemented Colorado's victim assistance and victim compensation funds to support the needs of the Littleton community. Through the victim assistance program, Colorado can award funds to schools or other agencies to support counseling services and other types of victim assistance. Funds provided to the compensation program can be used to pay for funerals, medical expenses, private mental health services, and lost wages. OVC continues to work closely with the Littleton community to ensure that the short-term and long-term needs of the victims and the surrounding community are adequately addressed.

In September 1999, BJS and the National Center for Education Statistics released Indicators of School Crime and Safety, 1999. The report found that, despite several tragic and deadly incidents on school campuses in the past few years, students were about three times more

likely to be victims of nonfatal serious crime away from school than at school. However, while data show that the actual rate of victimization has declined or remained constant over recent years, students seem to feel less safe at school now than just a few years ago.

In response to strong demand from school officials and concerned citizens nationwide, OJJDP continued to distribute Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe Schools. This document, first developed by the Departments of Education and Justice in 1998, is designed to help adults reach out to troubled children quickly and effectively. The guide outlines the early warning signs that point to violence and other troubling behavior and the action that school communities can take to prevent violence, to intervene and get help for troubled children, and to respond to school violence when it occurs.

The guide also outlines the characteristics of schools that support prevention, appropriate intervention, and effective crisis response. The guide points out that well-functioning schools foster learning, safety, and socially appropriate behaviors. They have a strong academic focus and support students in achieving high standards, foster positive relationships between school staff and students, and promote meaningful parental and community involvement.

OJJDP and NIJ are working with other federal agencies on a research agenda on school safety. Topics for research include the incidence and prevalence of school crime, risk and protective factors at the individual and school level, school-based prevention and intervention, community partnerships for safety, and the role of law enforcement in schools. In September 1999, NIJ released The Appropriate and Effective Use of Security Technology in U.S. Schools. The publication, produced by NIJ, the Education Department, and the Sandia National Laboratories, describes information on products available to address video surveillance, weapon detection, entry control, and duress alarms in a school setting.


In FY 1999, OJJDP sponsored a range of programs to implement the principles embodied in the Comprehensive Strategy. The bulk of OJJDP funding passed directly to state governments to support local juvenile justice and delinquency prevention projects. In FY 1999, OJJDP awarded more than $77 million to all 50 states, territories, and the District of Columbia under the JJDP formula grant program to support a wide variety of juvenile justice activities, from prevention to incarceration. OJJDP also awarded more than $40 million under the Title V program, which provides funds to states to develop and implement comprehensive plans for delinquency prevention, and more than $9 million under the State Challenge Grants program, which provides funds to improve juvenile justice systems, including juvenile courts, juvenile corrections, and juvenile probation and aftercare programs.

OJJDP's largest grant program, the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grants (JAIBG), provided more than $232 million to states in its second year, supplementing the $232 million awarded in FY 1998. JAIBG funds support programs designed to ensure accountability in the juvenile justice system, in an effort to make young offenders aware of and responsible for the consequences of their actions. Accountability is best achieved through a system of graduated sanctions imposed surely and swiftly. Graduated sanctions are defined in relation to the nature and seriousness of the offense, moving from limited interventions to more restrictive actions if the juvenile offender continues delinquent activities. By ensuring that even minor acts of delinquency have consequences attached and that consequences become more severe with each additional offense, accountability-based systems hope to halt the progression of young offenders toward more serious and violent crime.

To be eligible to receive funds, a state must certify that it either has in place, or is contemplating, laws and policies that allow prosecution as adults of juveniles aged 15 and older who commit a serious violent crime, impose graduated sanctions that escalate in severity with each criminal act, maintain criminal history records for juveniles who commit serious crimes, allow judges to order parental supervision for juvenile offenders and sanction parents who do not comply, and implement testing for use of controlled substances for youths within the juvenile justice system. JAIBG funds must be used in accordance with 12 legislatively mandated purpose areas. These purpose areas include construction of juvenile detention or correctional facilities, hiring prosecutors and other personnel, gun and drug courts, and accountability-based programs for juveniles.

To address gang violence, OJJDP continued implementation of the Comprehensive Gang Model in five communities, and supported a detailed gang problem assessment process in four rural sites. The core strategies of the model involve reaching at-risk and gang-involved youth with academic, social, and economic opportunities in the community. The model also emphasizes holding gang members accountable for their actions, and using the problem-solving approach of community policing.


In addition to its support of state and local juvenile justice through formula grant programs, OJP also supported several projects with a national scope in FY 1999. These included public service media campaigns, juvenile mentoring, and innovative projects to help integrate public health and child protection agencies with delinquency prevention efforts.

To educate youth on violence prevention, in FY 1999 OJP supported media campaigns on violence prevention and gun safety. In April 1999, the Attorney General kicked off Fight for Your Rights: Take a Stand Against Violence, a public service advertising campaign on MTV. The announcements advertise a free CD-ROM that teenagers can obtain request online at www.mtv.com. The CD-ROM includes songs from Lauryn Hill, the Dave Matthews Band, and Alanis Morissette, as well as tips on violence prevention. The campaign received the Emmy Governor's Award, the highest award given by the Emmy Board, for the best pro-social campaign on television (including the networks and cable). The public service campaign is supported by a partnership, which includes BJA, OJJDP, and the Education Department.

OJJDP's Juvenile Mentoring Program supports one-to-one mentoring programs for youth at risk of educational failure, dropping out of school, or involvement in delinquency, including gangs and drug abuse. In February 1999, OJJDP awarded 73 grants totaling more than $14 million to provide mentoring to 7,500 young people. With these grants, OJJDP now supports 166 JUMP sites in 41 states. OJJDP released Juvenile Mentoring Program: 1998 Report to Congress, which highlights initial evaluation findings from the original 93 JUMP projects. These projects all matched at-risk young people with adults over 21 who provide youth with discipline, guidance and personal attention through activities such as tutoring, job training and community service. Most of the mentors and participating youth believed that mentoring helped the young people improve their academic performance, avoid alcohol and drugs, and get along better with family and friends.

While juvenile crime rates have dropped throughout the nation, they continue to rise in Indian Country. To prevent and control youth violence and substance abuse among American Indian and Alaskan native youth, OJJDP awarded nearly $8 million to 34 tribal communities in 14 states in FY 1999. The new Tribal Youth Program awards will support accountability-based sanctions, training for juvenile court judges, strengthening of family bonds, substance abuse counseling, and other programs. These grants represent an unprecedented federal investment in tribal communities to prevent juvenile delinquency and reduce youth violence. This program is part of the Indian Country Law Enforcement Improvement Initiative, a joint effort of the Justice and Interior Departments.

Several OJJDP programs seek to prevent youth violence by linking delinquency prevention programs with other resources like schools and social services. The SafeFutures program, operating in six sites, seeks to create a continuum of care in communities. The services provided through the program include family strengthening, afterschool activities, mentoring, treatment alternatives for juvenile female offenders, mental health services, day treatment, and graduated sanctions for violent and chronic offenders.


In FY 1999, OJP continued to develop research on juvenile crime and delinquency, with a focus on school crime and gun violence.

In September 1999, OJJDP released Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1999 National Report, which provides a clear view of the nature of juvenile crime and violence and the justice system's response. The 215-page report details the latest statistics and research on characteristics of the juvenile population, juvenile victims, juvenile offenders, the juvenile justice system and process, law enforcement and juvenile crime, juvenile courts, and juveniles in correctional facilities. Key findings in the report include:

In 1999, OJJDP released the Report to Congress on Juvenile Violence Research. The report consolidates the findings of seven OJJDP-funded studies on youth violence and the causes and correlates of delinquency. Highlights include:

In light of the findings of these studies, the report recommends that interventions should target gangs, guns, high-risk juveniles, and locations and times at highest risk for juvenile violence.

In the wake of the Littleton incident, the President established the National Campaign Against Youth Violence to explore a public-private partnership to reduce juvenile crime and provide positive alternatives for young people. The President also commissioned a study about the motion picture, television, music, and video game industries marketing material that is rated for adults to young people, as well as advertising these materials through outlets primarily used by minors. OJJDP is funding this study in conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission.

Back to OJP FY 99 Annual Report