Baltimore, Charlotte, and Dallas recently announced that they will launch new Violence Interruption services delivered by Youth Advocate Programs (YAP), Inc., a national nonprofit more widely known for its family-based alternatives to youth incarceration and out-of-home placement. Informed by its evidence-based, quickly expanding youth justice systems services, YAP’s Violence Interruption programs are now also helping cities reform public safety. “For 46 years, YAP has partnered with youth justice and child welfare systems, dramatically reducing recidivism while keeping young people safely home with their families,” said YAP President Gary Ivory. “We began rolling out violence prevention and interruption services over the past few years in Chicago, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C., where we’ve seen our programs begin to fill some critical public safety gaps.”
With operations in cities in 30 states and the District of Columbia, YAP hires individuals from the communities it serves who provide intensive home-based services that strengthen families and equip young people with tools to set and achieve positive goals. Included in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Model Programs Guide and among promising Office of Justice Programs (OJP) youth justice diversion initiatives, YAP's youth programs serve many young people whose histories include serious offenses, multiple arrests, and lengthy out-of-home placements. John Jay College of Criminal Justice research published in 2014 found 86 percent of YAP program participants remain arrest free, and six – 12 months after completing the program, nearly 90 percent of the youth still lived in their communities with less than five percent of participants in secure placement.
City leaders have been impressed with YAP’s outcomes and its commitment to systems reform, achieved by addressing racial inequities and other systemic disparities and injustices. Core principles common in YAP’s programs include cultural and linguistic competence; empowering young people to see their strengths; individualized services; family and community teamwork; 24/7 availability; and a no reject-no eject policy.
"YAP's Violence Interruption approach engages individuals who are most likely to become perpetrators or victims of crime -- some who have been systems involved and others who have not. Our service providers are credible messengers, people who have shared backgrounds and experiences and have turned their lives around,” Ivory said. “These community-based YAP staff provide five to 10 hours a week connecting individuals and families with educational, emotional and economic tools. They’re in essence using their social capital to help those they serve build theirs.”
YAP’s new Violence Interruption program in Baltimore comes after three decades of delivering community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and out-of-home placements in Maryland. Two years ago, YAP began delivering violence disruption services as Baltimore City’s Penn North neighborhood Safe Streets program partner. The nonprofit’s newest Baltimore Violence Interruption initiative is a partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (MONSE) as part of an emerging Group Violence Reduction Strategy. The new services will combine elements of YAP’s Safe Streets work with strategies it implements in Washington, D.C., where formerly incarcerated adults and other Credible Messenger staff support people coming home from prison. The new Baltimore Violence Interruption team will serve youth and adults who have exposure to violence or trauma, have a history of being engaged in gun activity, are group involved, on parole or probation, have criminal records and/or active warrants, are disconnected from traditional institutions, and/or are not proactive in following-through or engaging in services. The neighborhood-based YAP team, which will be available 24/7, will work with program participants’ families and trusted friends, case managers, probation officers, clergy members, substance use counselors and other service providers.
“I am proud of our partnership with Youth Advocate Programs, and I commend their violence interruption efforts in Baltimore,” said Mayor Brandon M. Scott. “As my administration continues to reimagine public safety, YAP’s commitment to tackling violent crime through a public health lens is critical to reforming public safety in Baltimore.”
Like its established Safe Streets work in Baltimore, YAP’s new Charlotte, N.C. Violence Interruption program will follow the evidence-based Cure Violence public health model. The YAP team will conduct street outreach to connect young people who are at most risk for perpetrating and/or being exposed to violence with individualized and family services and resources.
“We know that the established model for community safety must continue to evolve with the world around us in order to be successful,” said Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles. “The methodology of Cure Violence Global is designed to neutralize threats of violence before the need to involve law enforcement and that is a real game changer. Given YAP’s success in implementing this model in other cities, I’m excited to see to see the organization begin work in Charlotte and to track the results.”
The program will serve neighborhoods along the Beatties Ford Road corridor, one of several Charlotte areas where YAP began providing countywide community-based alternative-to-youth-incarceration services a year ago.
“Mecklenburg County is excited to expand its partnership with YAP to help provide resources as a means of deterring violence within the community,” said George Dunlap, Chairman, Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. “I am hopeful that YAP’s intervention model can serve as a starting point in using a holistic approach to violence prevention strategies for individuals who need it the most.”
YAP’s Violence Interruption work in Dallas comes after three decades of experience in the metroplex, where the nonprofit provides community-based alternatives to youth incarceration and individual and family mental health services. YAP is hiring local Violence Interruption employees in four Dallas neighborhoods that have high percentages of gun violence and illegal drug and gang and group-related activity. The community-based YAP employees will identify young people who can benefit from educational, economic, and emotional support. YAP will work with the young people and their parents/guardians and implement curricula and programming that will include community gatherings and retreats, bringing former offenders together with victims for restorative justice events, and addressing individual and family trauma of being exposed to violence.
“We cannot and should not rely on police alone to stop the violent crime increases in our city,” said Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. “Violence interrupters, which were highly recommended by my Task Force on Safe Communities, will stop conflicts before they become violent and can help our people and our neighborhoods to grow and thrive. That is why we are thrilled to partner with Youth Advocate Programs as we work to make our communities stronger, safer, and more prosperous."
YAP expects to continue expanding Violence Interruption services in 2021, as well as its core youth justice, child welfare, behavioral health, and developmental disabilities community-based programs. Learn more about YAP’s services in the U.S. and globally at yapinc.org.