Durham Youth Gang Strategy (DYGS)

Program snapshot

Age group: Adolescence (12-17)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Gang-involved (and/or at risk); Youth in contact with law enforcement (and/or at risk)

Topic: Gang and/or related criminal activities

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting

Location: Ontario

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 1

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention; Tertiary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Durham Youth Gang Strategy (DYGS) is a comprehensive program developed by the Durham Family Court Clinic (DFCC) and the Murray McKinnon Foundation (MMF) to support prevention and intervention activities among at-risk youth.

The DYGS is based on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) Comprehensive Gang ModelFootnote1 and is centered on conflict resolution; leadership and youth development; school-based strategies; skills training; social emotional learning; job employment; parent training; and community mobilization.

The program, funded by the National Crime Prevention Centre, concluded in March 2012. Since April 2013, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (Ontario) has funded the DYGS as a pilot program that recognizes the need for community service for youth involved in youth gangs.


The main goals of the DYGS are to:

  • Help youth increase their awareness of the consequences of gang involvement;
  • Encourage a less positive attitude toward gangs; and
  • Decrease the risk factors that make youth prone to joining gangs.


The appropriate clientele for the DYGS is youth between the ages of 12 and 18 who have been identified as being at-risk of gang involvement and criminality.

Participants may be referred through youth custody facilities, as approved by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS), or by a number of community sectors, including probation services, police services, schools, parents, and community agencies.

To participate in the program, youth must be at-risk of being involved in gang activity. Youth may also participate if they have already been involved in gang activity or are currently attending high-risk schools. Parents of at-risk youth are also eligible to participate.

Core Components

The DYGS consists of a 33-week program on average. The program components include the following:

  • Community mobilization: The project brings local residents, youth, community groups, civic leaders, and agencies together to create new linkages to organizations providing services for gang-involved and at-risk youth;
  • Social Intervention: Programs and services are provided for youth involved in gangs and those at high-risk of gang involvement. Youth requiring one-to-one support are identified through partnerships with existing agencies and networks already serving ‘at-risk’ youth in the region;
  • Opportunities provision: Access to education, training, and employment programs is organized for youth participants. The DYGS workers assist youth by assessing aptitudes and identifying opportunities;
  • Organizational change and development: The DYGS facilitates organizational change and development to help community agencies better address gang problems. Examples include team problem solving, development and implementation of policies and processes that result in the most effective use of available and potential resources within and across agencies; and
  • Suppression: Suppression activities including close supervision of youth involved in gangs by criminal justice agencies and community-based agencies, schools, and grass-roots groups are supported by the program.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: The lead organization must have solid intake and assessment skills so that at-risk youth can be properly identified for inclusion in the DYGS.
  • Partnerships: DYGS facilitators are encouraged to work closely with police services, probation case managers, child protection workers, and other services in order to provide youth with close support and encouragement.
  • Training and technical assistance: Staff must be trained in the Gang Reduction Program approach and are required to participate in specialized training associated with gangs, conflict resolution, communication strategies, engagement, aggression awareness, family/parent support, life skills training, and substance abuse interventions.
  • Risk assessment tools: Referral sources are asked to rate the youth’s risk of being involved in a gang by completing either The Durham Youth Gang Risk Profile or The Durham Youth Gang Involvement Profile based on their knowledge of the youth.
  • Materials & resources: Program staff are responsible for providing parents/guardians and community members with the materials necessary to address behaviours related to gang involvement.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

Public Safety Canada’s National Crime Prevention Strategy provided funding to implement the DYGS program in various regions throughout Toronto, including Pickering, Ajax, and Oshawa, between 2008 and 2011. The DYGS program was implemented by the Durham Family Court Clinic (DFCC) and the Murray McKinnon Foundation (MMF).

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

As part of Public Safety Canada’s funding, an outcome evaluation studyFootnote2 of the DYGS program was conducted in 2008-2011 by Saini. A single group repeated measures design was used to evaluate the DYGS program. Of the 72 youth who completed pre-test surveys, 34 completed the mid-test survey (six months), 28 completed the post-test survey (typically 12 months after the pre-test), and no youth completed the follow up survey (18 months after the pre-test). Focus groups were also conducted with youth, parents, and stakeholders.

Results from this evaluation showed the following:

  • For youth who completed the program, the results showed a significant reduction (p < .05) in positive attitudes toward criminal activity with a moderate effect size (ES = 0.30). The results also showed a significant increase in youths’ closeness with their family members at the completion of the program with moderate effect (ES = 0.39, p < .05); and
  • There was a significant reduction in youths’ closeness with peers involved in gangs (p < .05) with a moderate effect (ES = 0.38).

For more information, refer to Saini’s (2011) publication.

Cost Information

In 2011, the cost per youth involved in the DYGS was approximately $12,720 (CAD) or $385 (CAD) per week. This estimate is based on participation of 95 youth over a 33-week period (Saini, 2011).


National Crime Prevention Centre (2012). Durham Youth Gang Strategy. Evaluation Summary. Ottawa, ON: Public Safety Canada. Available from: http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/drhm-strtgy/index-eng.aspx

Saini, M. (2011). Final Evaluation Report: Evaluation of the Durham Youth Gang Strategy. MAS Information and Evaluation Group, Toronto. Final Evaluation Report Submitted to the National Crime Prevention Centre, Public Safety Canada (Unpublished report).

For more information on this program, contact:

Durham Family Court Clinic
201 – 44 Richmond Street West
Oshawa, Ontario L1G 1C7
Telephone: (905) 725-0845
Website: http://www.dfcc.org/durham-youth-gang-strategy.php

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-22
Record Updated On - 2018-04-23
  1. 1

    For more information on the OJJDP Comprehensive Gang Model, also known as the Gang Reduction Program, refer to the specific program descriptive sheet.

  2. 2

    A process evaluation study of the program was also conducted through Public Safety Canada’s funding. For more information, communicate with the Research Division, Public Safety Canada.

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