The University of Chicago News Office
June 7, 1995 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

University of Chicago Gang Expert Creates National Model to Combat Gang Violence

A gang intervention and control strategy developed by University of Chicago sociologist and social worker Irving Spergel will serve as the national model for U.S. Department of Justice efforts to stop the spread of gangs and reduce gang violence. The Spergel model for reducing gang activity, which consolidates community organizations, employment agencies, schools and law enforcement officials, will be used in a five-state demonstration project starting this year. Spergel and his research team will also evaluate the impact of the programs over the next four years.

The Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) will spend $1 million this year testing the model in Bloomington, Illinois; Mesa and Tucson, Arizona; Riverside California; and San Antonio, Texas.

Spergel, one of the nation’s leading authority on gang violence and juvenile delinquency and Professor in the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, began the first stage of the four-year project, titled Evaluation of the Comprehensive Community-Wide Approach to Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression. He was awarded an eight-month $250,000 from the Department of Justice to initiate the evaluation.

Spergel’s model is based on extensive research on gangs, an examination of earlier intervention efforts and his work with the Department of Justice since 1987 in developing training manuals and research material on gangs and gang violence. The model has been tested over a three year period in the Little Village section of Chicago, involving the Chicago Police Department, Cook County Department of Adult Probation and a coalition of community agencies.

“Based on pervious evaluations of existing programs and testing in smaller communities we found that the community-wide approach is very effective in reducing gang violence and intervening in young people’s lives in a positive way,” Spergel said. “The further collaboration with the Department of Justice will enable us to empirically evaluate the model in various cities on a larger scale.”

Spergel, through funding from the OJJDP, conducted the first comprehensive national survey of organized agencies and community group responses to gang problems in the United States from 1987 to 1989. Out of that study, Spergel’s research team developed programs that brought together diverse sectors of the community to reduce chronic and emerging gang problems.

Spergel’s intervention program requires coordinated efforts by schools, youth employment agencies, grassroots organizations, community-based youth agencies, community mobilization groups, police, prosecutors, judges, parole and correction agencies, and former gang members.

“This project goes beyond traditional programs because it coordinates efforts by all the groups who want to reach out to youth who are seriously at risk of joining gangs or who are violent gang members,” Spergel said. “It provides opportunities for both adolescents and young adults in gangs to change their lives.”

The researchers will train data collectors and community personnel at the demonstration sites to maintaining case studies, implement strategy and empirically measure the outcomes. The evaluation portion of the project is expected to be completed in the Spring of 1999. Each demonstration site will also work with the OJJDP to coordinate a National Symposium on Gangs, to be held in 1996 which will examine the extent of the gang problem nationally, evaluate the impact of other community programs and disseminate information on effective gang research.
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

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