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An evaluator’s reflections and lessons learned about gang intervention strategies: an agenda for research

Caterina G. Roman (Department of Criminal Justice, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 28 June 2021

Issue publication date: 24 August 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper is designed to critically review and analyze the body of research on a popular gang reduction strategy, implemented widely in the United States and a number of other countries, to: (1) assess whether researchers designed their evaluations to align with the theorized causal mechanisms that bring about reductions in violence; and (2) discuss how evidence on gang programs is generated and consumed. That review and assessment is then used to frame a research agenda for studying gang interventions.

Design/methodology/approach

A case study design is used to generate a multi-faceted understanding of the possible avenues for evaluation research on the law enforcement-based strategy known as the Group Violence Intervention. The paper discusses questions that remain to be answered about the strategy, such as “what type of deterrence is operating?” and if the model actually works by the threat of deterrence, and not by removing high-risk offenders and shootings from the street, what activities are needed to maintain the effect?

Findings

Across roughly two dozen impact evaluations of GVI, none have examined the likely cause and effect components of this multi-partner strategy in reducing the violence. Furthermore, there are many issues related to the production and generation of criminal justice evaluation research that have adversely pushed the balance of evidence on what works in gang reduction toward law enforcement programming. However, there are many strategies that researchers can use to think broadly about appropriate and holistic research and evaluation on gangs and gang programming.

Practical implications

The recommendations for research, if implemented, can help build a body of knowledge to move toward community-based and restorative models of gang violence reduction.

Originality/value

This original piece is one of the first essays to contextualize and discuss how aspects of the production of social science research on gangs may directly impact what programs and strategies are implemented on the ground.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank the anonymous peer reviewers, Alyssa Mendlein at Temple University, Finn Esbensen and John K. Roman for their review and comments on this manuscript.

Citation

Roman, C.G. (2021), "An evaluator’s reflections and lessons learned about gang intervention strategies: an agenda for research", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 13 No. 2/3, pp. 148-167. https://doi.org/10.1108/JACPR-02-2021-0576

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021, Emerald Publishing Limited

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