Crime can be reduced by investments in proved prevention programs aimed at at youths 12 to 20 years old, where “all of the action happens” in starting crime careers, says University of Colorado criminologist Delbert Elliott. A featured speaker at yesterday’s Justice Department criminal justice research and evaluation conference in Washington, D.C., Elliott evaluates crime-prevention programs using strict standards.
Only about three dozen programs of thousands operating around the nation meet the test, Elliott argues. They include Seattle’s “The Incredible Years,” Big Brother, Big Sister mentoring, and some versions of life skills training classes. A list can be seen at www.colorado.edu/cspv. Elliott contends that such programs can be provided cost-effectively. He noted that the nation’s at-risk youth could be provided life skills training for about $550 million, a small portion of the $40 billion annual national drug control budget. “Investing in good programs will pay for itself,” he says. Despite that, many states and localities continue aiding programs that are either unproved or may even encourage crime. Elliott noted that the popular Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, which has not met his evaluation tests and has been criticized in several studies, has been revamped and still might prove effective. Widespread adoption of proved crime prevention ideas could have a “significant impact on the rate of crime and violence,” Elliott told the conference.