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Juvenile Weapon Crimes and Strategies to Address

Although juvenile delinquency is a common problem, the prevalence and participation of minors in violent crimes involving various types of weaponry is a major social concern. Previous nationwide studies revealed that 16% of students had carried a weapon to school at least one day within the last 30 days (Emmert et al., 2018). Following these statistics, various interventions have been formulated to address the growing challenge before it becomes entrenched.

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Among the prominent strategies is the Youth Firearm Violence Initiative (YFVI), a program developed by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to combat the spiraling incidences of juvenile firearm violence. This strategy was intended to enhance the safety of neighborhoods through sustained violent crime reduction (Hess et al., 2012). Although the YFVI was a multifaceted scheme, California’s Inglewood Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving (ICOPPS) was the most effective in deterring and reducing firearm violence among the youths.

California’s ICOPPS is a strategic and tactical response to the rampant incidences of juvenile gun violence, being a major public health and criminal justice challenge in the United States, with severe socio-economic repercussions. Inglewood, a predominantly black, low-income neighborhood, ranked among the areas worst hit by juvenile drug problems and crime infestation, particularly in the Bottoms section (“Youth Firearms Violence Initiative,” n.d.). The department of police in Inglewood executed the firearm violence and prevention initiative, targeting major youth gangs, primarily through an afterschool mentoring program known as Rights of Passage (ROP). de Vries et al. (2018) argue that such group-oriented interventions are considerably effective and yield long-term crime prevention outcomes.

The enforcement activities were implemented through Strategies Against Gang Environments, a police subunit funded by YFVI up to a tune of $787 201 (“Youth Firearms Violence Initiative,” n.d.). The plan used volunteer police officers, community leaders, and firefighters as mentors and role models to promote civic values, violence prevention, conflict mediation, academic support, and self-esteem (Hess et al., 2012). The mentorship was designed to keep the juveniles engaged in constructive activities between the time they left school and when their parents returned home from work.

The SAGE unit comprised one deputy district attorney, a deputy probation official, a sergeant, and six police officers. They enhanced their surveillance and patrol schemes by creating the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Prevention (STEP), an assertive anti-gang task force constituted to identify and forestall juvenile gang recruitment and their criminal activities. By increasing their street surveillance and presence in the targeted areas, the SAGE unit gathered useful evidence, which potentially enhanced the identification of outlawed groupings and their membership (“Youth Firearms Violence Initiative,” n.d.).

A restraining order was imposed to allow the Inglewood Police Department to arrest and detain gang members who violated any provision of the civil court injunction, such as loitering. These multifaceted efforts were highly effective since they led to the general decline in criminal activities in previously violence-infested areas and the extinction of illegal outfits, including the Crenshaw Mafia Gang (“Youth Firearms Violence Initiative,” n.d.). Although the SAGE unit was eventually disbanded when the allocated YFVI funds were exhausted, some of the programs under the initiative, including the ROP, are still operational and supported by business and community donations.

Conclusively, YFVI was a multipronged approach developed and implemented to address the spiraling challenge of juvenile weapon crimes. The initiative recognized that minors obtained firearms and handguns from their neighborhoods. California’s ICOPPS was a collaborative unit which brought together various law enforcement agencies, community leaders, and other influential representatives to eradicate and prevent weapon violence among juveniles. Targeted proactive arrests in crime-infested and drug-ridden areas and mentorship programs for the minors were highly effective in eliminating the gangs which fostered firearm offenses and recruited youths into their criminal activities.

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de Vries, S., Hoeve, M., Asscher, J., & Stams, G. (2018). The long-term effects of the youth crime prevention program “new perspectives” on delinquency and recidivism. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 62(12), 3639-3661.

Emmert, A., Hall, G., & Lizotte, A. (2017). Do weapons facilitate adolescent delinquency? An examination of weapon carrying and delinquency among adolescents. Crime & Delinquency, 64(3), 342-362.

Hess, K., Orthmann, C., & Wright, J. (2012). Juvenile justice (6th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Youth Firearms Violence Initiative – Inglewood, CA. (n.d.). Profile No. 27.

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