Evaluation of a Youth Gang Diversionary initiative in the East End of Glasgow
Completed Start date 2006 End date 2008
Antisocial behaviour and youth crime are major public health issues and increasingly the focus of policy interest. Two inter-related dimensions of these issues are gang fighting and territorialism, consistently cited as problematic local issues in the East End of Glasgow. This project evaluated a two year partnership initiative to tackle youth crime in their locality involving several community based youth agencies, Strathclyde Police and a local housing association.
The intervention ran from April 2006 to March 2008. Its overall aim was to increase community safety through targeting specific groups of young people who had been identified by community agencies as responsible for a substantial proportion of antisocial behaviour in the immediate locality. Youth workers offered a range of individualised interventions, with the common purpose of encouraging young people to pursue alternatives to behaviours that were perceived to threaten community safety and wellbeing.
A logic model of the theory underpinning the intervention was developed through a series of stakeholder focus groups. Their perceptions and understanding of youth crime, its root causes and available prevention initiatives, including perceived barriers to change, were defined. The individual components of the gang diversionary strategies that were thought to predispose and enable change were clearly defined. Measures for baseline and intermediate outcomes were developed at a number of levels, including process evaluation of the partnership itself, a survey tool designed to capture individual level behavioural outcomes in young people, semi-structured interviews with local residents, use of routine housing association, youth agency and police monitoring data and validated measures of the effects of crime on the neighbourhood environment.
Next steps: The final report of the evaluation will be available in mid 2008. This study also informed the development of a further study evaluating youth diversionary projects in Glasgow.
Both the nature of the intervention and its anticipated effects were perceived in different ways by its highly diverse range of stakeholders. Although there was an initial decline in the frequency and intensity of antisocial behaviours among individual young people following implementation of the intervention, these were neither consistent nor sustained. However, process evaluation of the planning, delivery and uptake of the intervention demonstrated other benefits that have been sustained, including improved mutual understanding between partner organisations that influenced wider interactions with young people and their families in positive ways. The relatively low intensity and coverage of the intervention, compared with the scale of the challenge, was a clear limitation. Several contextual factors also constrained the effectiveness of this programme, particularly the increasing ease of availability of cheap alcohol, which contributed to a growing culture of alcohol abuse, created a distancing effect between young people and youth workers and broke the continuity of developmental work at individual level.