In more than 40 years of studying Los Angeles city’s street gangs, Malcolm Klein says his home was burglarized nine times. Now, says the Wall Street Journal, the retired University of Southern California professor is offering the city what he hopes might will help stem crime: A test that he says could predict if a child is destined to join a gang. The test will help decide the direction of the millions of dollars the city spends annually on gang-prevention efforts.
The multiple-choice screening, some 70 questions long, shows how closely Los Angeles has begun to examine the work of social scientists to tackle complex policy issues like gang violence. Last year, city officials turned to Klein and his colleagues at USC to design a test that they hope will empirically identify which children are headed toward a life on the street. The screening, intended for children between 10 and 15 years old, asks about issues ranging from past relationships to drug use to attitudes toward violence. One question asks whether the test taker recently had a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend; another asks if test takers are kind to younger children.