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The California Wellness Foundation's Violence Prevention Initiative: Findings from an Evaluation of the First Five Years

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Violence has long been a major issue for citizens of the United States, who experience homicide and robbery rates that are several times higher than those reported in most other industrialized countries. Between the mid-l980s and mid-1990s this problem became particularly acute for persons under 21, whose homicide arrests doubled and whose violent-crime victimization rate went up by more than 50 percent. At the same time, the analogous numbers for older groups were stable or increasing only slightly. Despite the magnitude of the youth violence problem in this country, little is known about the potential success of various strategies for reducing it. All of the recent reviews that have attempted to identify promising intervention strategies have concluded that the knowledge base is still too thin to provide compelling evidence in support of any single approach, particularly those in which the community or neighborhood is the focus of the intervention, as opposed to interventions which target specific youth. It is now often suggested that youth violence will yield only to a multitude of approaches that can work on several aspects of the problem in unison. The California Wellness Foundations Violence Prevention Initiative VPI represents one such effort. With funding in excess of 35 million for its first five years, the VPI represents an ambitious attempt to combine policy and media advocacy, community action, individual leadership, research, and evaluation in one integrated initiative. The evaluation of the first phase of the VPI was carried out by teams of researchers from RAND and from the Center for Research in Disease Prevention at Stanford University. This report presents findings from an evaluation of the VPIs first five years 1993-1998. It begins with the historical context of the Initiative, the goals and intent of the Initiative, its structure, and the design of the evaluation.

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  • Sociology and Law

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