Individuals – Esbensen et al. (2012)

Study Reference:

Esbensen, F.-A., Peterson, D., Taylor, T. J., & Osgood, D. W. (2012). Results from a Multi-Site Evaluation of the G.R.E.A.T. Program. Justice Quarterly, 29(1), 125-151.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; General; Highly proactive; Very rigorous; Mixed findings

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study examined the Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) program, a gang and delinquency prevention program delivered by law enforcement officers within a school setting. The G.R.E.A.T. program examined in this study consisted of 13-week lessons that taught students about crime and its effect on victims, cultural diversity, conflict resolution skills, meeting basic needs (without a gang), responsibility, and goal setting. The intervention expanded from previous G.R.E.A.T program by including an emphasis on the development of skills, rather than on the assimilation of knowledge, and also incorporating problem-solving exercises and cooperative learning strategies.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The intervention was evaluated with an experimental longitudinal panel design in which classrooms (n=195) of six or seven grade in 31 eligible schools were randomly assigned to the treatment or control condition within each school. A pre-test and an immediate post-test and four annual follow-up surveys were conducted on students for whom parental consent was obtained to measure gang membership, delinquency and violent offending, attitudes toward the police, and a series of other attitudinal, behavioral and skill-related variables. To determine program effectiveness, the authors compared these variables for students in treatment and control classrooms using primarily post-test and one-year follow-up questionnaires.

What were the key findings?

The program prevented gang membership by producing a 39% reduction in the odds of joining a gang one year post-program. It improved youths’ attitudes toward the police, but it did not significantly impact students’ rate of violent offending. In addition, compared with students in the control classrooms, students in the treatment classrooms illustrated less susceptibility to peer pressure, better refusal skills, and less involvement with delinquent peers; lower support for neutralizations regarding violence; less favorable attitudes about gangs; lower levels of self-centeredness and anger; and a higher degree of collective efficacy, all of which are essential in preventing gang involvement and violent offending.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that G.R.E.A.T. can be effectively included as a primary prevention component of a larger community-wide effort to reduce gang membership and youth violence.

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