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Houston Mayor White Oversees Gang Free Schools and Communities Project (GFSP)

by Houston Mayor Bill White
April 10, 2006

This best practice is taken from the Conference of Mayors Best Practices on Gang Intervention and Gang Prevention Programs, compiled by the Mayorsí Institute for Community Policing, which is sponsored by the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) at the Department of Justice. Copies of this publication are currently available. For more information, contact Kathy Amoroso at 202-861-6723, or Jocelyn Bogen at 202-861-6727.

The Mayorís Anti-Gang Office operates the Gang Free Schools and Communities Project (GFSP) in Houstonís Greater East End neighborhood. The project is based on the implementation of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Preventionís Comprehensive Gang Model, a paradigm that utilizes five core strategies (community mobilization, provision of opportunities, social intervention, suppression, organizational change and development) to address gang issues within a targeted community.

The purpose of the GFSP is to reduce gang-related violent crime and gang involvement, alleviate community fear of gang violence, improve early identification, assessment and intervention with gang-involved youth, and expand their opportunities.

An implementation plan of goals, objectives, and activities based on the five strategies of the Comprehensive Gang Model serves as the guide for reducing gang violence in the community. The project utilizes street level outreach workers to engage youth, an Intervention Team to provide a comprehensive continuum of services to youth participants, and community education and awareness training to empower Greater East End stakeholders to deal with gang violence in their community.

The project targets males aged 15 to 24, who are criminally involved and/or are known or suspected members of the most active gangs in the Greater East End community. Associates or family members of individuals in this primary target group, as well as known or suspected gang members who have been expelled from school or who have habitual school discipline problems, serve as secondary targets.

Program Implementation

Houston was selected as one of four demonstration sites in 2001. Each site was funded for the first year to conduct an extensive data driven analysis of its gang problem, write an assessment report outlining key findings from the data, and develop an implementation plan using the five core strategies.

Measuring Program Effectiveness

Ongoing collection and analysis of crime data, along with evaluation and assessment of client progress is used to measure the projectís effectiveness.

Program Financing

This project is funded by a federal grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Other City Agencies Involved

The primary city agency involved in the project other than the Anti-Gang Office is the Houston Police Department, although other important project partners who are outside the cityís jurisdiction include state and county agencies and one of the independent school districts. Their involvement ranges from participation on the intervention team to representation on the steering committee. Residents and stakeholders from the target community serve on the project steering committee.

Major Lessons Learned

A thorough assessment of a communityís gang problems is the key to the development of effective strategies to address them. Understand that addressing gangs and gang violence requires a response that includes social intervention as well as law enforcement strategies. Gang identification training and education is important for all officers. Law enforcement agencies must look to incorporating organizational change and development into their policies, procedures and/or general orders for dealing with gangs and gang crime.

Advice For Mayors

City leaders must be willing to acknowledge the existence of gangs and gang violence in their respective communities. Commit to providing resources that will allow for prevention, intervention and suppression activities.

For further information, contact Patricia Harrington, Acting Director, Houston Mayorís Anti-Gang Office, P.O. Box 1562, Houston, TX 77251. Phone: 713-247-1576; Fax: 713-247-1340; e-mail: