Evaluating G.R.E.A.T.: A School-Based Gang Prevention Program
About the Author
Finn-Aage Esbensen is theE. Desmond Lee Professorof Youth Crime and Violence in the Departmentof Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Few rigorous evaluationshave been conducted ongang prevention programs.But one, a careful 5-year longitudinal evaluation, showsthat Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.)has modest positive effectson adolescents’ attitudes anddelinquency risk factors butno effects on their involvement in gangs and actualdelinquent behaviors. (Forinsight on the evaluation,see “A Tale of Two Studies.”)
What is G.R.E.A.T.?
G.R.E.A.T. differs from mostefforts to reduce gang problems. Typical programs aredirected at active gang members, and most target youthswho are at risk for joininggangs. The G.R.E.A.T. program, in contrast, is presentedto entire classrooms withoutattempting to predict whichstudents are most likely tobecome involved with a gang.The G.R.E.A.T. program isaimed at middle schoolstudents and seeks to—
Reduce their involvementin gangs and delinquentbehavior.
Teach them consequencesof gang involvement.
Help them develop positive relations with lawenforcement.These three objectives areaddressed through a 9-hourcurriculum taught in schoolsby uniformed law enforcement officers. Students aretaught to set positive goals,resist negative pressures,resolve conflicts, and understand how gangs impact thequality of their lives.
Does G.R.E.A.T. work?
G.R.E.A.T. has achievedmodest positive results. Theevaluation survey was firstadministered to youths whenthey were in 7th grade andreadministered annuallythrough 11th grade. Resultsshow that G.R.E.A.T. wasable to successfully changeseveral risk factors (e.g.,peer group associations andattitudes about gangs, law