Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16111 Using Photovoice to Empower Youth and Adult Residents to Prevent Crime and Violence

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 10:30 AM
Independence E (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Mary L. Ohmer, PhD, Associate Professor, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Jennifer Owens, MSW, Student, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Purpose: This presentation discusses how photovoice was integrated into a crime prevention program whose goal was to facilitate collective efficacy, which has been shown to result in less neighborhood crime/violence (Sampson, Raudenbush & Earls, 1997). Photovoice was used to help youth and adult residents identify community norms they believed contributed to or helped to prevent neighborhood crime. Residents used the results to develop and implement a community based crime prevention project.

Methods: Twenty-four racially diverse youth and adult residents participated in a six week training program to build their skills in collective efficacy. In the first session, pairs of participants were given disposable cameras (24 count) and instructed to take a walking tour of the neighborhood to make observations about community norms and characteristics they felt alleviated and/or contributed to crime. Photovoice methods were used to share and discuss the photos (Wang, 2006; Wang & Burris, 1997): (1) Contextualizing /Sharing: During the third training session, participants were asked to share their photos, including their observations and stories. This discussion was guided a series of questions: What do you see? How does it relate to your experiences in the community and community norms/values? Why do you think this is a concern and/or strength? And what can we do about it? (2) Selecting/Prioritizing: From the group discussions, several themes emerged and were prioritized by participants. The youth were given the charge to develop a list of potential community projects to address these priorities. (3) Feedback/Support: Project ideas were discussed in the fourth and fifth training sessions. From this discussion, the youth developed and presented the group's ideas and photos to community stakeholders at the sixth training session.

Results: Community norms that residents felt contributed to crime were vacant and abandoned lots/buildings, graffiti, un-kept housing, and trash. Strengths that helped alleviate crime were identified as the quality of housing, strong local businesses, residents' relationships and community art and gardens. The goals of the community project were to address a problem residents associated with crime, while providing a vehicle through which neighbors could build relationships (a key component of collective efficacy). Participants met for four months to develop the project, while engaging key stakeholders and the neighborhood association. Their efforts resulted in the development of a community art and garden project on a vacant lot located on a main neighborhood thoroughfare. The art project consisted of a stage that included tiles with the neighborhood's name, a map and icons representing residents' stories; lighted sculptures; and a flower garden. Participants organized a community event to unveil the project, share residents' stories, and celebrate their efforts: over 70 people attended. Partnerships were developed with the neighborhood association, a local arts organization, the police department, and CSX railroad. Survey results also showed that participants increased their level of neighborhood activism, social ties/relationships with neighbors, and their likelihood to intervene in neighborhood problems.

Implications: This project demonstrates how photovoice can be used to build intergenerational relationships and create tangible changes that make a difference for the entire community.