Research center highlights successful youth crime prevention efforts

University Park, Pa. — An evaluation by researchers at Penn State of youth crime in Pennsylvania shows that research-based strategies have resulted in reduced rates of youth delinquency and drug use, improved academic achievement and cost-savings in communities across the state.

Strategies include the use of “Communities That Care,” a model that engages communities in implementing programs in schools and communities. These evidence-based programs are intended to reduce drug and alcohol use, improve parenting and promote social and emotional learning in schools.

Research by the Evidence-based Prevention and Intervention Support Center (EPISCenter) at Penn State found that youth in these communities have better long-term academic achievement than youth in comparison communities.

In addition to the findings of lower delinquency and drug use, research by the center also found that prevention programs generated substantial cost-savings through reduced crime, drug treatment, social service and welfare use, increased graduation and employment rates and increased tax revenue, that they not only paid for themselves but represented a return on investment to the state measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brian Bumbarger, director of the EPISCenter, provided testimony to the United States House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security about Pennsylvania’s successful and cost-effective efforts to prevent delinquency and youth drug use on July 15. Congress wants to develop similar initiatives nationally.

“It’s rare that we see such definitive positive impact from taxpayer-supported programs,” said Bumbarger. “This is clearly an example of effective government policy at work.”

According to Mark Greenberg, director of the Prevention Research Center, Pennsylvania benefits in two ways from the research that the EPISCenter conducts.

“First, we’re finding that it’s not just the children and families directly involved in the programs that are benefiting. We’re seeing better outcomes – both delinquency and academic achievement – across the entire community. Second, the economic analysis shows these programs are a very good investment of scarce taxpayer resources because they ultimately save taxpayers between $5 and $25 for every dollar invested in the programs.”

Bumbarger went on to say that Pennsylvania’s Research-based Violence Prevention and Evidence-based Prevention Programs Initiatives are seen as models throughout the U.S. and abroad.

“In addition to requests by Congress, I’ve also presented on Pennsylvania’s prevention efforts to other state legislatures, to the Council of State Governments, and even to foreign governments. Pennsylvania’s progressive stance on prevention has made it a recognized leader in this area of government policy.”

The EPISCenter, a project of the Prevention Research Center in Penn State’s College of Health and Human Development, was created last year to support efforts by Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency and Department of Public Welfare to reduce youth crime and drug use and strengthen families and communities, using community prevention coalitions and evidence-based prevention programs.

Contacts: 
Last Updated July 31, 2009