Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research

Palm Beach County Youth Violence Reduction Project: Phase II

Background

Beginning in 2004, a series of media stories detailed numerous violent crimes, many of which included the use of firearms, in the county. In response, the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) initiated a study to determine if this trend was likely to continue. The study, conducted by FSU in 2006, assessed the County’s historical trends in the levels of violent crime, gun-related crime, and murder. The study found that while the County’s overall crime rate had declined from 1990-2005, violent crime including those involving firearms, had increased with the murder rate having experienced particularly substantial increases from 2000 to 2005. Of additional importance was the study’s finding that violent crime committed by adolescents or young adults between the ages of 15 and 24 had increased.

The CJC and associated subcommittees selected the national Comprehensive Gang Model established by the U.S. Department of Justice as the program model to address violent crime. The county invited cities to participate by agreeing to a set of specific criteria (detailed in the Year 1 evaluation report). Palm Beach County’s YVPP included four components: Prevention, Law Enforcement, Courts, and Corrections.

The model mandates multilevel collaboration among key community leaders, organizations, and street-level intervention teams for long-term capacity building and reduction of violence at all levels. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention identified seven critical elements that distinguish the Spergel Model from other gang approaches: 1) targeting of specific areas and populations based on initial “problem assessment”; 2) implementation of five key interrelated strategies (noted above); 3) an overarching intervention/prevention/suppression team/agency; 4) policymakers and community leaders to guide the project; 5) the development of a mechanism for coordinating collaboration (and information sharing) amongst stakeholders at all levels (representing all components of the initiative); 6) community capacity building to sustain the project and address issues; and 7) ongoing data collection and analysis to inform the process and evaluate the impact using qualitative and quantitative data. For a more detailed description of Spergel’s Comprehensive Gang Model including the five core elements, refer to the Year 1 evaluation report.

Site Selection

Based on the findings from the 2006 study of violent crime in the county, five program sites (cities) or violent crime “hot spots” were identified and these cities agreed to implement the YVPP. The five cities selected to implement the program are Belle Glade, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth, Riviera Beach, and West Palm Beach.

The program sites/cities had to agree to the following conditions:

  • Abide by the requirement that all city-related projects and efforts will service the residents within the identified geographic areas as outlined by Criminal Justice maps
  • The city will make a commitment of building space for services within the identified geographical areas
  • Design a phase-in plan, including timeline, for the creation of a Youth Empowerment Center
  • Design a phase-in plan, including timeline, for a Justice Service Center
  • Participate in the multi-agency task force law enforcement component of the YVPP
  • Utilize the findings of the Project’s 500 youth surveys to develop and prioritize youth empowerment programs
  • Pay the city’s portion of all goods, services, and personnel used in connection with this project
  • Develop separate community advisory boards for youth and young adults
  • Participate in all aspects of evaluation including data collection, data sharing, site monitoring, and visits

Moreover, five cities were identified to serve as “control sites” to facilitate general comparisons with the cities that were selected and agreed to implement the YVPP (program sites). The method used to select appropriate control sites included the use of U.S. Census data and Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data.

Ultimately, Palm Beach County’s YVPP Model included four components, namely, (1) Crime Prevention; (2) Law Enforcement; (3) Courts; and (4) Corrections, and involved a joint county/city effort.

The approach employed in the evaluation of Palm Beach County’s five site implementation of the YVPP is termed “multi-goal.” Multi-goal evaluation has three fundamental purposes, namely (1) program description, (2) explanation of program processes, and (3) program predictions. Specifically, multi-goal evaluation is guided by the assumption that comprehensive program descriptions enable the identification of various cause/effect program relationships from which program specific explanations and predictions can be made regarding what the program can and cannot do. In evaluating the five site implementation of the Youth Violence Prevention Project Model, each site’s efforts will be focused upon the program’s inputs-activities-immediate results-and longer term outcomes. Multiple items of qualitative and quantitative data will be collected in relation to each of the five sites’ operations in relation to each program’s inputs-activities-immediate results-and longer term outcomes. Moreover, each of the five sites’ outcomes will be compared and assessed in relation to their individual control sites.

Contact Information

Thomas Blomberg, Dean and Sheldon L. Messinger Professor of Criminology

Principal Investigator: Thomas Blomberg

Senior Faculty Researcher: William Bales

Graduate Research Assistant: Karla Dhungana

Funding Amount: $200,000

Funding Sponsor: Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission

Dates: 2007-2009