According to this article, communities that implement scientifically validated programs to reduce juvenile delinquency experience a 27% decrease in such behavior by the adolescents. The researchers first surveyed a sample of fifth-graders from 24 different communities. Then, twelve communities were asked to identify between 2-5 risk factors they deemed most critical for their area. Those twelve communities received information on how to target those risk factors, while the other twelve communities did not receive any such information. According to the study, the communities that received the information on interventions experienced 27% less juvenile delinquency than those communities that did not receive the information, based on a follow-up survey of those same kids, one to two years later. From the article:
At the start of the study, all fifth-grade students in the 24 cities filled out questionnaires that included questions about delinquent behavior, asking for example whether they had stolen anything worth more than $5, purposely damaged or destroyed property that didn't belong to them or attacked someone with the intent of causing seriously harm. The questionnaires administered again when the students were in the sixth and seventh grades.
And here is more:
Part of the training included a process for each town to identify its risk factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency. Once these were identified, the communities were asked to select between two and five of them as their top priorities. After that they were given information about tested programs that addressed each priority risk factor, selected programs they would implement and were trained in how to implement these programs. The other cities were given no assistance.
What is not stated in the article are any specifics regarding the intervention programs, including their cost, degree of manpower needed, etc. I agree that a 27% decrease appears impressive, but with research, the devil is in the details. I always worry about the “If even one child...” attitude that many subscribe to. In other words, “Yes, the program costs $500 million, but if it helps even one child to read, it’s worth it.” Um, no, it’s not. Are there better, cheaper ways to do it? Are there other areas to spend the money, where we’d get a better bang for our buck? This isn’t to be cynical, it’s to be practical, and to be scientific. I not only agree 27% is a great number, I also agree that in the past, many communities threw away money when addressing such topics as juvenile delinquency. However, simply stating terms like “scientifically validated” doesn’t make it so. In addition, this article appears to have been written based on information provided by the researchers, so I am not sure as to whether more data is available. What is nice about research like this, though, is the consideration for evidence-based interventions, with an effort to set up true experimental designs. I just wish the methodology and numbers were more easily accessed...