San Diego Repeat Offender Prevention Program

Intervention; Ages 12–17


(Read the criteria for this rating)
  • Promising delinquency program

Risk Factors

Antisocial/delinquent beliefs
Gang involvement in adolescence
General delinquency involvement
High alcohol/drug use
Lack of guilt and empathy
Makes excuses for delinquent behavior (neutralization)
Mental health problems
Physical violence/aggression
Violent victimization
Delinquent siblings
Family violence (child maltreatment, partner violence, conflict)
Lack of orderly and structured activities within the family
Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)
Frequent school transitions
Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
Low academic aspirations
Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure
Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
Peer rejection


The San Diego Repeat Offender Prevention Program (ROPP) is a key component of the San Diego Breaking Cycles program (see separate description in this compendium). ROPP is an intensive probation supervision and treatment program that targets youth at high risk of becoming serious chronic offenders. The main target area is four Zip codes in the inner-city area of San Diego, which was subsequently expanded to encompass 15 communities. Following a comprehensive assessment of the child and family treatment needs, a case management plan is developed that includes:

  • Family preservation/support services (financial assistance, living skills, emergency food/clothing, etc.)
  • Community safety measures (intensive supervision, day treatment, drug and alcohol testing, confinement, etc.)
  • Accountability measures (sanctions)
  • Competence-building services (social skills, problem solving, academic instruction, mental health services, anger management, etc.)
  • Support services (Boy and Girl Scouts; individual, group, and family counseling; parent education/training; gang counseling; etc.)

Serious offenders who are gang-involved are transferred to the Gang Suppression Unit (GSU), which provides intrusive supervision for documented gang members with an emphasis on a high level of community control through proactive enforcement of conditions of probation, using searches, drug tests, and law enforcement surveillance. Aftercare services provided by community agencies and through natural family supports are gradually phased in for all clients as program completion approaches, by linking community and family services into the case management plan. Employing a “wraparound” approach to service delivery (a strengths-based, family-centered approach that seeks a balance between formal services and natural supports that continue to support the family when formal services are no longer needed) helps create an environment in which clients are less dependent upon ROPP so that the transition away from ROPP is made easier.

ROPP services are provided through a multidisciplinary team consisting of a probation officer, a protective services worker (i.e., a social worker), a community family monitor (i.e., correctional deputy probation officer), a drug and alcohol specialist, a student worker, and a community family monitor. The team members are available by pager 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A supervising probation officer supervises the teams. (There currently are four teams with 25 cases each.) Teams meet frequently, as a function of need. In addition, graduated sanctions are accessed for ROPP youth through the Breaking Cycles program. The use of graduated sanctions is viewed by staff as a valuable tool for holding ROPP clients accountable for their actions and moving them away from a delinquent lifestyle.

Team members are housed in a Family and Community Team OutReach (FACTOR) Center, through which a broad spectrum of services is now provided in a single location in the central city area of San Diego, which is accessible by public transportation. A number of services are provided for ROPP juveniles and their families on-site, serving as a one-stop center. In addition, youth and families are frequently referred to outside agencies that offer such services as after-school activities, domestic violence counseling, drug counseling, job training, employment, and gang counseling, among others (41 percent of the ROPP clients were involved in gang activity).

The researchers identified the best practices used in the ROPP program:

  • Maintaining a small client-to-staff ratio.
  • Using the wraparound approach.
  • Implementing centrally located services.
  • Using graduated sanctions and immediate responses.
  • Providing intensive alcohol and drug-related treatment services.
  • Having an on-site court school.

The researchers also made best practices recommendations to other localities that attempt to replicate the ROPP program:

  • Use a collaborative approach.
  • Maintain a caseload of 15 to 20 youths.
  • Provide centrally located comprehensive services.
  • Provide ongoing staff training.
  • Reduce staff turnover.
  • Establish efficient information systems.
  • Utilize participatory program development methods.


National Gang Center and OJJDP Model Programs Guide: Promising program


Ms. Cynthia Burke
San Diego Association of Governments
Criminal Justice Research Division
401 B Street, Suite 800
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: (619) 699-1910


Burke, C., and Pennell, S. (2001). “Breaking Cycles Evaluation: A Comprehensive Approach to Youthful Offenders.” San Diego, CA: San Diego Association of Governments.

Howard, L.; Misch, G.; Burke, C.; and Pennell, S. (2002). San Diego County Probation Department’s Repeat Offender Prevention Program Final Evaluation Report. San Diego, CA: San Diego Association of Governments (accessible at

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