Individuals – Esbensen (2002)

Study Reference:

Esbensen, F. A. (2002). National evaluation of the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program. Final report. Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; General; Highly proactive; Moderately rigorous; Mixed effects

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study examines the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program (G.R.E.A.T), a school-based gang prevention program in which uniformed law enforcement officers teach a nine-week curriculum to middle school students. The program had three primary objectives: 1) to reduce gang activity; 2) to educate young people about the consequences of gang involvement; and 3) to improve young people’s attitudes and perceptions about the police. Class contents included topics such as conflict resolution, goal setting, and resisting peer pressure. Discussion about gangs and how they affect the quality of people’s lives are also included.

How was the intervention evaluated?

A cross-sectional study was conducted in which 5,935 eighth grade students in eleven different cities were surveyed on attitudinal (e.g., attitudes toward delinquent behavior) and behavioral factors (e.g., involvement with gang) to assess the effectiveness of the G.R.E.A.T. program. Additionally, a five-year longitudinal, quasi-experimental panel study was conducted in six cities, in which the attitudinal and behavioral outcomes of students were compared before and after (four yearly follow-ups) the intervention for both the treatment and comparison classrooms. Three alternative surveys were also conducted to assess the attitudes of parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers toward school-based prevention program in general and the G.R.E.A.T. program more specifically.

What were the key findings?

Results from the cross-sectional study indicated that students completing the G.R.E.A.T. program were less likely to join gangs. The longitudinal study, however, failed to find similar effect. Both of the student outcome studies found that students participating in the G.R.E.A.T. program had significantly more pro-social attitudes (including more positive attitudes toward the police) and more unfavorable attitudes about gangs than students not participating in the program, although the effects were modest. Parents, teachers, and law enforcement officers expressed high levels of support for the G.R.E.A.T. program and for prevention program in schools.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that officer-taught, school-based, cognitive prevention program can have a measureable impact on students’ attitudes and limitedly on behaviors.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?