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Department of Justice
Office of Justice Programs
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention



in action
January 2000 NUMBER 12

Raising Awareness and Educating the Public
What Is a Public Awareness how they can address the problem, you enable
and Education Project? them to take action.
Shay Bilchik
Administrator A public awareness and education project is a In Chicago, IL, youth ages 16 to 21 worked
way to bring a certain issue to the attention of a through their community center and created an

group of people. This type of project can take informative resource packet that was distrib-
many forms, ranging from a poster contest to a uted to youth throughout the neighborhood.
fair at a local mall or a program on one of your They also performed role-plays and skits about
town’s radio or television stations. A public crime and drug prevention to increase preven-
awareness and education project is a great way tion awareness among their peers and spon-
to highlight the need for crime prevention in sored youth forums on crime and crime
your community. The important thing is to get prevention issues.
key prevention information out to your target
audience (youth, adults, or children) and en- What Does It Take To Start
courage them to take action in preventing or a Public Awareness and
reducing crime. Education Project?
A lot of planning goes into organizing a public
How Does a Public Awareness
awareness and education project. Your group
and Education Project Prevent
or Reduce Crime? miinniissttrraattoo
thhe aaddm
e rr
Educating the public is one of the most
important strategies for preventing crime.
People who know what actions they can Too often people don’t
take to reduce their risk of crime and know what they can do to reduce crime.
how they can enhance neighborhood You can make a difference by learning the facts,
safety are the core of a safer commu- developing a message, and getting the word out
about solutions. This Bulletin provides ideas
nity. By reminding people that a
about how you can do that. It will help you raise
problem exists and showing them
public awareness about crime prevention
in your community.
will need to consider some basic planning and your school administration. Ask other
issues and make some initial decisions. These youth if they would be interested in the topic.
may change later, but you will need a platform Ask yourself the following questions: Who can
from which to begin. Ask your group: What take action against this problem? Who can
topic do we want to focus on? How can we make benefit most from information on the topic?
people aware of this? What educational infor- Whom can I reach through various kinds of
mation do we want to present? The answers to media? You might want to reach people in one
these questions will go a long way toward neighborhood or students in a particular school.
framing the kind of project or campaign you Perhaps you’ll decide to focus on all youth ages
will plan and carry out. 7 to 12 or on all people over age 60.

Determine Your Audience Choose Your Topic and
Develop a Message
Next, you will need to determine your audience.
Doing this and choosing your topic are closely The first thing you need to do is choose the
linked. Some topics may not be appropriate for topic about which you want to make others
certain age groups. Consider your topics and aware. Some good topics for education and
audiences carefully. Date rape, for example, is awareness projects are:
not likely to be an appropriate topic for youth
◆ The prevention of auto theft.
younger than 12. Auto theft and alcohol-
related driving offenses are more applicable to ◆ The dangers of drinking and driving.
people of legal driving age. Prevention of bicycle ◆ The effects of vandalism and graffiti on
theft and education on curfew laws may be good the community.
topics for younger audiences. ◆ The consequences of shoplifting.
To help determine who your audience will be, ◆ The benefits of a Neighborhood Watch.
do some research at the local library and ◆ The dangers and prevalence of date rape.
contact the local police or sheriff’s department ◆ The benefits of home security.

After you have chosen a topic, you will need to
Planning a Successful Project focus your information on a central message or
For more information on how to plan a successful
project, see the National Youth Network’s Planning a To develop a message, ask what two or three
Successful Crime Prevention Project. This 28-page
workbook explains the five steps of the Success Cycle: main points the audience should learn from
your efforts. Resist the temptation to communi-
◆ Assessing Your Community’s Needs.
cate the whole range of potential issues. It
◆ Planning a Successful Project.
would be great to teach the community every-
◆ Lining Up Resources.
thing you know about your topic, but studies
◆ Acting on Your Plans. show that people only take away one main
◆ Nurturing, Monitoring, and Evaluating. message and that they need to see or hear it
The workbook includes six worksheets for you to take several times (as many as a dozen) before they
notes on. You can get a copy of this planning workbook will clearly recall and understand it. For ex-
from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, listed in the
“Resources” section. Good luck! ample, if you’ve decided to begin a campaign
on auto theft prevention and the target

audience is new drivers ages 16 to 21, you Get Your Message Out
might want to convey these messages: Now that you know the topic you want to focus
◆ “Lock your car even when you’ll be gone just on, the audience you want to educate, and the
a minute. It takes a thief only a minute to most current information on the topic, you need
steal your car.” to decide how to get your message out. Will you
use TV, radio, or newspapers? Will you create
◆ “Take the key [out of the ignition] so thieves
a Web site, brochure, or poster? Don’t limit
won’t take your car.”
yourself—be creative. While TV, newspapers,
◆ “Take control; take the keys; use the locks. and radio ads may reach a lot of people, they can
Don’t let a thief leave you carless.” be quite expensive. You also need to consider
These messages basically state the same your audience. Second graders probably won’t
theme—that many cars are taken because they read an ad in the newspaper. They might, how-
are unlocked or because the keys are left in ever, read the comics section or a special kids’
them—in different ways. page in the newspaper. A brochure that can be
read quickly is more effective for some audi-
Be sure to talk with people in the intended ences than a 10-page newsletter, no matter how
audience. Listen closely to their responses as much information it contains. A poster in a
you ask how they see the issue or problem, school hallway that’s seen four or five times a
what they already know or believe, what they day can have a more lasting effect than a one-
think they can do, what they think others shot television news story.
can or should do, and what appeals to them.
Responses from the audience will tell you Older people often gather at senior centers and
what aspects of your main theme to emphasize. enjoy programs that bring them useful informa-
tion; a series of presentations at these centers
may reach more of your audience than any
Learn the Facts
booklet, report, or newsletter. In addition, adult
Once you’ve selected a topic, you should learn civic, social, and fraternal groups often welcome
the facts regarding that topic. Obtain the most speakers on important subjects; why not a
current data. Find out about new technologies, youth with helpful news to share?
new research discoveries, and prevention
approaches that have been tried. You can learn Your peers listen to specific radio stations and
about your topic from libraries, local law look at specific publications, such as the school
enforcement officers, professional organizations newspaper. An on-air interview or letter to the
that deal with your topic, and the Internet. editor can spread the word about your program.
A shopping mall may provide a perfect site for
In the search for information, find out: a community crime prevention fair, a 1- or 2-day
event with some key messages for adults, youth,
◆ What causes the problem in your
and children.
◆ What prevention strategies present the best Ask yourself and your group how you get your
chances of reducing crime. news, where you learn about new trends, and
◆ Who in your community should receive this how you find out useful information. Ask
information. people in your target group these same ques-
tions. Develop a strategy based on the forms
◆ What resources exist for the general public.

of communication you have available and the National Network for Youth, the Advertising
resources you can tap. Pick several ways to Council, Inc., and the Office of National
reach the audience and rank them by priority. Drug Control Policy) and local affiliates
of national organizations (such as Mothers
Recruit Volunteers Against Drunk Driving and Students Against
Destructive Decisions) may have printed
You will need plenty of volunteers to make your
materials available on issues such as drink-
public awareness and education project
ing and driving, runaway and homeless
successful. Develop a list of experts you can
youth, and drug abuse prevention. See the
call upon: artists, announcers, public relations
“Resources” section for contact information.
specialists, teachers, activists, distributors,
speakers, writers, designers, and others. Solicit
volunteers from your school, other schools in What Does It Take To Keep a
the area, youth groups in the community,
Public Awareness and
Education Project Going?
businesses, and professional organizations.
Explain the talents you’re seeking and the Fresh ideas, eager new volunteers, and new
opportunity the volunteers will have to be ways to communicate are the fuel that will
involved in an exciting activity that will help keep your public education effort an ongoing
the whole community. Don’t forget to recruit activity. Repetition is a major benefit because
communications professionals, business people need to hear and see messages several
people, and others who can lend equipment, times. Messages, however, need to be fresh-
ideas, and experience. See the “Resources” ened or given new twists to make sure they
section at the end of this Bulletin for organiza- capture and hold the public’s attention.
tions that can help with recruitment and other
Handing out brochures, distributing posters,
parts of your program.
or calling television and radio stations and
newspapers requires a substantial amount of
Gather Resources
volunteer energy. Training that lets volunteers
Figure out what you will need for your share lessons they have learned helps provide
project. Are you counting on local TV and fresh energy for everyone. Sometimes, switch-
radio stations for air time or on a major local ing jobs among volunteers can renew their
daily newspaper for print space? If so, talk energy.
with public service managers and public
affairs directors. Do you need printing Support for the activity should come from both
services? Check with the vocational educa- outside and inside your group. Remember that
tion staff at your local high school about your goal is to get the community to take
whether this can become a printing class action—in other words, to try to put yourselves
project. Will you have to enlarge photos or out of business eventually. As people begin
design displays? Find out whether art or to hear your message, recruit leaders to help
photography students at the high school or drive it home—the principal, school board
local college might help. Many campaigns members, local religious leaders, business
can be carried out with a remarkably small executives, hospital administrators, doctors and
amount of money, drawing on donated goods dentists, and many other people can teach,
and services and borrowed equipment. For preach, post, promote, and confirm your
instance, national organizations (such as the anticrime message.

What Are Some of the the community in a positive way. For example,
Challenges of a Public knowing that because of your work, a small
Awareness and Education child now understands how to get away from
Project? a threatening stranger can be very satisfying.
A major question facing any public education
Participating in a public education project also
and awareness effort is whether the message is
gives you skills—in areas such as leadership,
the right one for the audience and the purpose.
teamwork, public relations, communication,
Testing messages with members of your target
management, and negotiation—that you can
audience can help you find out whether there’s
put to work right away in school or work
a mismatch. Evaluation, discussed below, also
settings. You’ll learn more about how your
provides important feedback on this point.
community works and how you can help your
A public education campaign targeting the community change—knowledge that some
entire community will take a lot of effort. You adults may never acquire.
may want to start on a small scale—for ex-
ample, with your neighborhood or student body. How Can Your Public Awareness
Once you learn how to get your message across, and Education Project Be
you can send it to larger areas. Evaluated?
Being turned down for publicity or getting no Evaluating your project can help you learn
acknowledgment from major communicators whether it has met your goals, but only if you
can be a disappointment. Don’t give up if the decide up front what to evaluate and how to do
news media or other organizations don’t so. The purpose of any evaluation is “to answer
respond immediately. It may take several tries practical questions of decision-makers and
before you get the response you want. Find out program implementors who want to know
if members of your group know adults with whether to continue a program, extend it to
contacts at the organizations in question. other sites, modify it, or close it down.” 1
Sometimes a personal introduction makes the The best way to start evaluating your project is
case when a paper presentation falls flat. to reflect on your original goals. Did you bring
Organizing events that focus attention on your your issue to the attention of a group of people?
project and are “good copy” (interesting news Did they learn from it? Be sure to include an
stories) can get your education message out to evaluation step—such as a questionnaire,
millions. suggestion box, or formal survey—in your
overall plan. Ask yourself what you can do
What Are Some of the Rewards better to reach your goals, to involve more
of a Public Awareness and people in your project, and to spread your
Education Project? message to a wider audience. Then, make
Imparting knowledge that will make someone adjustments to your activities to strengthen
safer will give you a sense of accomplishment. your project.
Finding out that people actually changed their
behavior because of your message lets you know National Crime Prevention Council, What, me
evaluate? Washington, DC: National Crime
that you have the power to persuade and change
Prevention Council, 1986.

You will probably want to examine how well a while (perhaps 6 to 12 months) will show
you were able to communicate by answering whether people’s knowledge or beliefs have
the following questions: changed. Look at whether people have encoun-
tered other messages or news stories on the
◆ How much coverage (in column inches) did
same issue, and consider what community
your message receive in the local newspa-
developments might have affected your mes-
per? In the school paper? On bulletin
sages. It’s difficult to prove that your campaign,
boards? On posters in stores?
on its own, is completely responsible for the
◆ How many minutes of coverage did your desired change, but it’s possible to show that
program receive on radio or television? your efforts helped. This kind of evaluation
◆ How many people were reached through needs up-front help from someone trained in
each medium? evaluation design; it can require a sizable
◆ How much was donated in advertising amount of work.
services, compared with dollars and volun-
In evaluating your awareness project, also
teer hours spent getting the message out?
consider whether and how it meets the follow-
(Local advertising agencies can help you
ing more general crime prevention goals:
put a dollar value on much of your publicity
so you can determine this.) ◆ Reduces crime or fear of crime in your
Evaluation of public awareness and education
◆ Is cost effective.
campaigns needs to be built in at the start.2 A
survey of a sample of your target audience at ◆ Has a lasting impact.
the beginning of your program can show what ◆ Attracts support and resources.
people knew or believed just before your ◆ Makes people feel safe and better about
campaign began. Conducting that same survey being in your school or community.
after your campaign has been under way for
Learning to evaluate the things you do is a good
For more information on evaluating projects, skill, one you can apply to all aspects of your
refer to Does Your Youth Program Work?, a life. Good luck with your project and—Learn
Youth In Action Bulletin available at no charge
to make a difference!
from the Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse, listed
in the “Resources” section.

For more information, contact one of the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol
following organizations or visit the U.S. and Drug Information
Department of Justice Kids Page Web site at P.O. Box 2345 This site includes Rockville, MD 20847
information for kids, youth, parents, and 800–729–6686
teachers. National Crime Prevention Council
1700 K Street NW., Second Floor
The Advertising Council, Inc. Washington, DC 20006–3817
261 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Internet: National Network for Youth
1319 F Street NW., Suite 401
American Advertising Federation Washington, DC 20004
1101 Vermont Avenue NW., Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Internet: Office of National Drug Control Policy
Information Clearinghouse
Boys & Girls Clubs of America P.O. Box 6000
1230 Peachtree Street NW.
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
Atlanta, GA 30309
Public Relations Society of America
Juvenile Justice Clearinghouse 33 Irving Place
P.O. Box 6000
New York, NY 10003–2376
Rockville, MD 20849–6000
(Check your telephone book for a local chapter
301–519–5212 (fax)
in the nearest metropolitan area.)
Students Against Destructive
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Decisions
511 East John Carpenter Freeway, Suite 700 P.O. Box 800
Irving, TX 75062 Marlboro, MA 01752
Internet: 508–481–3568
(Check your telephone book for a local chapter Internet:
in an area near you.)

U.S. Department of Justice PRESORTED STANDARD
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Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention PERMIT NO. G–91

Washington, DC 20531
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Youth in Action Bulletin NCJ–178926

This Bulletin was produced by the National Crime The National Youth Network, founded and managed
Prevention Council as part of the National Citizens’ by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Crime Prevention Campaign under a cooperative Prevention, consists of diverse youth leaders from
agreement with the Bureau of Justice Assistance across the Nation who are sponsored by youth-
(BJA), Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department serving organizations. The goal of the Network is to
of Justice. The National Crime Prevention Council recognize and build upon the power and importance
is a nonprofit organization that conducts demonstra- of youth leadership by uniting young people and
tion and youth-based programs, produces publica- adults, through communication and action, to
tions and training materials on a variety of subjects, enable youth organizations and nonaffiliated youth
and manages the day-to-day activities of the to have a positive, formidable impact in our commu-
National Citizens’ Crime Prevention Campaign. nities and throughout our Nation.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this docu-
ment are those of the authors and do not necessarily The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
represent the official position or policies of the Prevention is a component of the Office of Justice
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preven- Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice
tion, BJA, or the U.S. Department of Justice. Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Na-
tional Institute of Justice, and the Office for Victims
of Crime.