Some Ineffective Anticrime “Feel Good” Programs Thrive


They are called the “gold standard” for violence-preventions: 11 models – out of more than 600 examined – that have proved most effective at thwarting crime and violence, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. At least five of these efforts, aimed at children and teens, are being used in Philadelphia, but often on a very small scale or desperately short of funding or volunteers. With gun violence and murders mounting, the lack of interest or investment in proved programs raises questions about why the city hasn’t done more. “Once anybody learns about it, it’s a no-brainer,” said Peter Greenwood, former director of the criminal-justice program at the Rand Corp.. Since 1996, the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence in Colorado has researched youth programs to determine which work best to reduce violence. The effort, backed by the Justice Department, has been instrumental in replicating the models across the country.

This year, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency awarded $6 million in grants for evidence-based programs. Choosing to champion these programs runs into this reality: They cost money, and the benefits may not be realized for years. “Politicians always want to do something quick: ‘Let’s have a police task force, a sweep,’ ” said Greenwood. In the meantime, the city supports programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, which has police officers go to classrooms to warn children about the dangers of drugs. The approach has been criticized as ineffective in reducing crime. “The police could be out there doing real police work,” criminologist Lawrence W. Sherman of the University of Pennsylvania, calling police involvement in DARE a University of Pennsylvania criminologist, said of DARE “a wasted opportunity.” Sherman, who has been tapped by Gov. Ed Rendell to serve on the commission, said programs like DARE, despite the evidence, thrive because they “feel good.” He added, “It’s very hard to change how we think about crime to the way we think about medicine.”


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