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What works to prevent gang involvement, youth violence and crime

A rapid review of interventions delivered in the UK and abroad

This report was commissioned by the Home Office to further our understanding of what works to prevent gang involvement and youth violence. Since the Government’s Ending Gang and Youth Violence programme began in 2011, it has had a strong emphasis on the importance of intervening at the earliest opportunity to prevent children and young people from getting involved in gangs and youth violence, and helping them to find ways out if they do become involved (HM Government, 2011).

Our goal was to provide a brief overview of the international literature on effective and ineffective approaches aiming to prevent gang involvement and youth violence, and to identify specific preventative programmes with a good evidence base through a rapid assessment of previous programme evaluations conducted by other “what works” clearinghouses. From this, we sought to summarise some common features – or “key principles” – associated with what does and doesn’t work. We leave to the next stage the task of assessing the specific costs and impacts of those programmes available in the UK, and assessing and recommending specific programmes.

Overall, we identified 67 well-evidenced programmes, all implemented in the USA and nearly half in the UK, which aimed to prevent gang involvement, youth violence or associated problems such as youth offending, conduct disorder and delinquency. 54 of these programmes had been assessed as effective by the clearinghouses searched, whilst 13 were classified as ineffective. The features and activities associated with these programmes were largely consistent with the findings of the key systematic reviews and evidence assessments identified through our literature review.

To maximise transparency, a list of the 67 programmes identified through our search is available in Appendix 3. At the time of publication, 18 programmes are also included in EIF’s online Guidebook. Some of these are discussed in more detail in Section 3 as case studies, illustrating how the key principles we have identified are implemented in practice.

A rating and detailed description are not provided for every programme, because we have not yet done our own assessment of their effectiveness and input costs. Whilst the clearinghouses searched provide very useful information about specific programmes, each presents different types of information that are not always strictly comparable, and not always fully up to date. Evidence and programmes change, so until we have tested the evidence in more detail we cannot provide an explicit assessment of all the programmes in this review. In the second phase of this work, the relevant programmes identified through this report will undergo detailed scrutiny and provider consultation to enable us to confirm an EIF rating and include information about these programmes in our online Guidebook.