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The National Academic Centers of Excellence on Youth Violence

In 2005, the Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence was one of eight Comprehensive Centers chosen as a national Academic Center of Excellence (ACE) on Youth Violence by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, the CDC funds six ACEs. Contact information for each center's principal investigator (PI) follows. Additional information regarding ACEs can be obtained from the CDC website by clicking here.

Johns Hopkins University
Principal Investigator: Philip Leaf, PhD
Bloomberg School of Public Health
624 North Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Telephone: 410.955.3962

The Johns Hopkins Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence (JHCPYV) has been established since 2005.  The Center will build on its mission to prevent youth violence and promote positive youth development in Baltimore City. Utilizing a community-based participatory research approach, the Center has excelled in creating academic-community collaborations that extend, evaluate, and improve efforts to: 1) monitor and detect fatal and non-fatal youth violence; 2) conduct research aimed at identifying malleable factors related to youth violence and research on interventions that reduce youth violence and associated morbidity and mortality; and 3) create policies and practices that prevent youth violence.

With funding from CDC, JHCPYV plans to collaborate with community organizations and residents in the Lower Park Heights community in Baltimore to employ a multi-sectoral, public health framework to understand and prevent youth violence. Baltimore consistently has one of the nation’s highest murder rates. In 2009, Baltimore had the fifth highest murder rate in the nation. These rates are particularly high for youth ages 10–24; from 1999 to 2007 the average annual homicide rates for youth 10–14 (6.6/100,000), 15–19 (89.8/100,000), and 20–24 (126.9/100,000) years old in Baltimore exceeded the national rate for these age groups by severalfold (1.05/100,000 for 10–14 year olds, 9.79/100,000 for 15–19 year olds, and 16.07 for 20–24 year olds). The potential for significant school failure and concerns about school safety have also been raised. A recent survey in Baltimore schools found that 35% of students did not feel safe at their school. Lower Park Heights was chosen as an intervention community based on its significant youth violence problems.

JHCPYC, with its partners, will implement and evaluate several community and school-based prevention programs to prevent violence and bullying and to promote safe and supportive environments.

University of Chicago
Principal Investigator: Deborah Gorman-Smith, Ph.D.
1313 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL  60637
Telephone: 773.256.5134

The Chicago Center for Youth Violence Prevention (CCYVP) has been established since 2005.  With five years of renewed funding, the center builds on its prevention efforts by bringing together three teams of violence prevention researchers and their respective colleagues and community partners: the Families and Communities Research Group, the Chicago Project for Violence Prevention and the University of Chicago Crime Lab.  By joining forces, they create a versatile group with a strong record for prevention research. The Center approaches the multifaceted problem of youth violence by providing programs targeted at children and families at different developmental ages and with youth at varying levels of associated risk and involvement.  The Center efforts are coordinated with the social systems that have the most direct influence on youth throughout development – families, schools, community agencies, and justice.

CCYVP plans to implement a coordinated system of evidence-based violence prevention interventions within a single defined community within Chicago, the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The community is located in the west side of Chicago. According to the 2000 census, there were 37,027 people living in Humboldt Park, of which 69.9% were African American and 27.5% were Latino.  This community has a high unemployment rate of 11.5% compared to the 6.2% that Chicago City has reported.  Over one-third of residents live in poverty.  The community is characterized by high rates of crime compared to other communities in Chicago.  In 2009, the per capita rate for homicide was 45.1 per 100,000 residents compared to 15.8 per 100,000 for the City of Chicago. Youth violence in particular has had a profound effect on this community.  The 2008 arrest data shows that youth (younger than 24 years) account for 57% of the arrests for murder, 57% of arrests for aggravated assault, and 75%of arrests for aggravated battery.  The Humboldt Park neighborhood was chosen in hopes that the community will benefit from CCYVP’s approach to youth violence prevention.

CCYVP is implementing a range of programs in Humboldt Park, including CeaseFire and a school-based version of CeaseFire, a universal normative feedback intervention delivered within classrooms in each school, and the SAFE Children program.  CCYVP is also working with community partners and city agencies to assess community need, identify relevant evidence-based interventions, and pilot promising interventions or policies to prevent youth violence.  Their evaluation approach consists of comparing Humboldt Park to the comparison community, Lawndale, on several indicators such as violent crime data, school disciplinary referrals, and school climate by employing a regression point displacement design.

University of Colorado, Boulder
Principal Investigator: Delbert Elliott, Ph.D.

The Denver Academic Center for Excellence (ACE) is a collaborative between the University of Colorado at Boulder, the University of Colorado School of Medicine and numerous community organizations, including the Denver Public Schools and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The Denver ACE has five main goals: 1) reduce levels of youth violence among youth ages 10–24 in Montbello, CO compared to a comparison site; 2) implement and evaluate a multi-faceted, evidence-based primary prevention/intervention approach within the Montbello community; 3) provide training activities for junior youth violence prevention researchers in the fields of behavioral science, public health, and adolescent medicine; 4) provide training to medical practitioners enabling them to recognize and treat youth violence; and 5) embed activities coordinated by the ACE into the existing community infrastructure of youth services to ensure sustainability.

The Denver ACE plans to implement the Communities That Care system in the Montbello community in Denver, Colorado. In 2009 the overall crime rate in Montbello was 53.3/1,000 residents, and within the school system the fighting rate was 81.5/1,000 students in the 2008–2009 school year. The rate for all school-related offenses in Montbello in the 2009-2010 school year was 122.65/1,000 students.

The Communities That Care system is a strategic planning mechanism that builds upon a concept of first identifying and then targeting risk factors for violence across multiple domains in a given community. The CTC system is designed to guide the prevention efforts of a community through a five-stage process: 1) assessing readiness to undertake collaborative prevention efforts; 2) obtaining commitment to the CTC process from community leaders and forming a prevention coalition; 3) using data to assess prevention needs; 4) choosing tested and effective prevention policies, practices, and programs; and 5) implementing and evaluating efforts.

University of Michigan
Principal Investigator: Marc Zimmerman, Ph.D.
The University of Michigan
School of Public Health
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Telephone: 734.615.4992

The University of Michigan Youth Violence Prevention Center (MI-YVPC) is collaborating with the University of Michigan School Of Public Health and Medical School, Michigan State University, the Genesee County Health Department, Flint Police Department and other local organizations.  The goal of the MI-YVPC is to create and evaluate a multi-level youth violence prevention strategy that will be sustainable and effective within the Flint community.  Researchers have combined efforts with local community partners to focus on promoting positive youth development through programs that improve community infrastructure and intergenerational interactions.  In addition, MI-YVPC is integrating and improving local prevention programs within their prevention strategy to ensure sustainability by increasing community capacity.

The target community that MI-YVPC has chosen to implement its youth violence prevention strategy is in the Durant-Tuuri-Mott neighborhood in Flint, Michigan.  Flint, Michigan is a unique and historic city that has seen much economic prosperity and misfortune throughout the years.  During the 1960’s, the City of Flint was one of the most prosperous metropolitan areas in the US due to the high paying manufacturing jobs at several General Motors factories located in Flint.  However, since the 1970’s Flint has lost over 70,000 auto industry jobs due to the departure of many of the GM factories. Based on socio-economic indicators, Flint is now one of the lowest ranked cities in Michigan.  The unemployment rate for Flint is over 26% compared to Michigan’s overall state-wide unemployment rate of 15%.  Twenty-eight percent of families are living in poverty and forty percent of families with children under the age of 18 are living in poverty.  Violent crime is a persistent problem in Flint, which surpasses MI and national rates for murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults. Flint has the 5th highest crime rate in the United States.  Youth violence is of particular concern.  In 2008, there were 99 violent crimes that involved victims under the age of 25 in the Durant-Tuuri-Mott neighborhood in Flint.

MI-YVPC is unique in that their approach to prevent youth violence involves several place-based initiatives, which aim to affect the behavior of groups of interrelated people by changing the physical context in which they interact and make choices.  The overall approach involves implementing programs at the family and community level to decrease rates of youth violence in the Durant-Tuuri-Mott neighborhood.  To evaluate their approach, MI-YVPC will compare the Durant-Tuuri-Mott neighborhood and comparison community on property assessments, police incidents, emergency department injuries, and communing survey data (including measures on neighborhood satisfaction, social capital, fear of crime, and level of neighborhood activism) using several statistical strategies.

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Principal Investigator: Paul Smokowski, Ph.D.
UNC School of Social Work
325 Pittsboro St., CB# 3550
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
Telephone: 919.843.8281

The North Carolina Rural Academic Center of Excellence in Youth Violence Prevention (NC-ACE) was created in collaboration with the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill, School of Social Work’s Jordan Institute for Families (JIF), the UNC Injury Prevention Research Institute and many Robeson Community local organizations, including public, non-profit and county government entities.  The specific aim of NC-ACE is to reduce youth violence in Robeson County by implementing and evaluating a multifaceted, evidence-based approach to prevent perpetration of youth violence.  In accordance, researchers are engaging in a planning process with community partners to identify the needs of the community by identifying risk factors that are unique to Robeson County’s population and adopting evidence-based interventions that have proven to be effective in preventing youth violence.  The Center’s youth violence prevention initiative will address significant gaps in youth violence research in multi-cultural settings through the evaluation of NC-ACE’s prevention interventions in Robeson County.

The NC-ACE chose Robeson County for its unique population characteristics and socio-economic disparities.  This county is ranked the third poorest mid-size county in the Unites States. Over 34% of the population is living in poverty.  In addition, this county is part of the 10% of the Unites States that are majority-minority; its ethnically diverse (Native America, African American and Latino residents) residents consist of more than 69% of the county’s total population of 129,123 people.  Thirty-eight percent of the population consists of the Lumbee tribe, which has established itself as the majority ethnic group in Robeson County.  In addition, youth violence has been an increasing concern in Robeson County.  Juvenile arrests rates have increased from 18,457 in 2005 to 17,809 in 2006.  For this reason, the county has been ranked first in juvenile arrest rates in North Carolina.  The youth death rate within this community is nearly double (123.6 per 100,000 youth) the state’s rate of 74.7.  This is a reflection of the county’s homicide rate which is almost triple that of the state’s average of 7.2 between 2004-2007.

NC-ACE has a strong partnership with the Robeson County Health Department, the Center for Community Action, and the Public Schools of Robeson County.  This partnership will enable them to implement and evaluate multiple programs in Robeson County and within the School System, the Justice System, and Family Services.  The overall approach is to track community and school rates of violence (including school suspensions, juvenile arrests, delinquent acts, complaints against juveniles, and self-reported violent behaviors) within Robeson County and the other 99 counties in North Carolina using both propensity score matching and regression point displacement design.

Virginia Commonwealth University
Principal Investigator: Albert Farrell, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
810 West Franklin Street,
Hunton House
Telephone: 804.828.8793

TheVirginia Commonwealth University Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development (Clark-Hill) was formally established in 2005.  However, the institute represents a merger of two previously established centers at VCU - the Center for Study and Prevention of youth Violence, which was one of first five developing ACE’s funded in 2000, and the Center for Promotion and Positive Youth Development.  The institute’s mission is to empower youth, schools, families and other stakeholders to promote the health, safe and positive development of youth in the Richmond community from early adolescent through young adulthood. Clark-Hill is working closely with community representatives to develop an action plan to address youth violence. The action plan involves identifying factors that place youth at risk and the creation of programs that will promote positive development among the youth in Richmond.

The institute’s primary focus is on youth aged 10-24 and their families living in Richmond, Virginia. In 2009, Richmond had an estimated population of 205,451; including 42,931 youth aged 10 to 24. According to the 2009 census, 52% of the population was African American, which represented 57% of youth aged 10-24.  Notable socio-economic and racial disparities have had a negative impact on youth development and violence prevention efforts.  The percentage of youth (12-24 year olds) living in poverty in this community is 48%, which is three times the states average. This is an indication of the magnitude of the youth violence problem in Richmond.  The 2008 homicide rate in Richmond was 15.5 homicides per 100,000, nearly three times the national average of 5.4 per 100,000.  The majority of homicides is among youth ages 15-24 years of age.  Homicide is the leading cause of death among this age group.  Violence in this community disproportionately affects African American youth, where African Americans composite 90% of youth who died of intentional injury.  Although the youth violence of Richmond has had a negative impact on the community, many community members are working with VCU-ACE to develop a comprehensive, multifaceted prevention program to reduce rates of violence among the youth.  This will provide youth with programs that will integrate and reinforce positive developmental change in all aspects of their lives.

Clark-Hill is working with community partners and city agencies to coordinate and implement a set of school-based, family-focused, and community-based programs.  The community-based intervention aids in: (1) building capacity of youth serving organizations to increase the availability and access to high-quality, evidence-based positive youth development resources; and (2) strengthening social capital that build parent and youth awareness and connection to these resources. Clark-Hill is utilizing an innovative quasi-experimental approach, the multiple baseline design, which will assist them in evaluating community-level changes.  Clark-Hill researchers will use several administration data sources (e.g., homicides, injuries, ED visits, school discipline reports) and survey measures (e.g., self-report aggression and violence) to assess changes among the three communities chosen.