The Intervention: Evidence-based mentoring to help high-risk youth avoid arrest
Who is Served: High-risk young people age 16-24 residing in or near public housing in Central Brooklyn
Even with crime dropping citywide, shootings in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments increased by nearly a third from 2009 to 2013. A Mayoral initiative launched in 2014—the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety—targeted 15 of the most crime-impacted NYCHA developments, including developments in Central Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods.1 The NYCHA development in Bushwick has been cited as having one of the City’s highest violent crime rates,2 and a 2013 report by Brooklyn’s Community Board 3 in Bedford-Stuyvesant described a concerning proliferation of firearms in the neighborhood’s housing projects.
The Next STEPS Approach
The Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety provided significant new funding for interventions to reduce violence in targeted NYCHA developments. CASES was selected by the NYC Department of Probation to provide a mentoring intervention serving high-risk youth age 16-24 residing in or near NYCHA housing in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick. This intervention—Next STEPS (Striving toward Engagement and Peaceful Solutions)—features:
- A partnership between CASES and the Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions (CNUS), an organization with a strong presence and network in Central Brooklyn
- Individual and group mentoring by “credible messengers,” adults who have successfully navigated challenges similar to those experienced by participating youth, including neighborhood of residence, poverty, and/or justice involvement
- Use of the evidence-based Interactive Journaling mentoring curriculum
- Linkages to CASES’ employment and mental health treatment services and to other appropriate community providers
The Interactive Journaling approach guiding Next STEPS mentoring activities has proven effective in promoting crucial life changes among a variety of high-risk populations, including young adults age 18-24. Studies have found engagement in Interactive Journaling to be correlated with
- Self-reported positive changes in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
- Reductions in alcohol and drug use and substance-related criminal behavior
- Reductions in recidivism and arrests
To date, CASES Next STEPS has consistently exceeded the Department of Probation’s enrollment milestones, with 95% average group attendance and two-thirds of all intakes in the voluntary program either successfully completing services or remaining active.