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Strategy: Youth Threat Hotline

Strategy To reduce or eliminate violence among youth, threats can be reported and resolved by trained counselors. Community Problem . . .


To reduce or eliminate violence among youth, threats can be reported and resolved by trained counselors.

Community Problem Addressed

The fear of reporting crime is often overcome with anonymity, and apathy is overcome with rewards. Numerous communities have implemented a hotline strategy, reporting successes in arrests of criminals and recovery of stolen property. During a recent five-year period, more than 200 crimes in San Jose, California, were reported as solved with help from callers to a tip hotline. Giving youth a variety of options to help solve their problems can reduce the number of assaults and other violent crimes committed against them.

Key Components

A trained counselor needs to be available to answer hotline phones at all times. When a threat is made, people can call the counselors. They will take the information of the victim, the offenders, and write down what the threat was. If the counselor believes the threat is serious enough, it can be referred to the police. If it is believed to be resolvable, the offender will be called in to talk with the counselor and an officer in an attempt to solve the problem.

Key Partnerships

The police department needs to be very involved in this strategy. They house and are in charge of running the program through the crime prevention unit. The funding can generally be found in the police department's general budget.

Potential Obstacles

Finding enough qualified people to staff the phones is difficult. Not only do they have to be counselors, but also they have to be trained on how to decide which threats need to be handled immediately by police. It is helpful to involve state and local officials and to get neighborhood coalitions to help staff the phones. This helps to send a stronger message of collaboration.

Examples of Success and Results

The Youth Threat Hotline was started in Bessemer, Alabama [population 35,000], in December, 1995, as a response to an outbreak of youth homicide in the city. The city already had success with other types of crisis hotlines.

The hotline is run by the police department and is funded through the crime prevention department's budget. Among teens, there has been a 75 percent decrease in homicides since the hotline began. The community has started to realize what a large impact a small effort, such as the hotline, can make. Residents of Bessemer are attempting to implement the program on a statewide basis and more adults are starting to use the hotline.

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