Midnight basketball, neighborhood watch groups and the popular school anti-drug DARE program.

A new congressional study says such crime prevention measures don't work.Officials who work with such programs in Utah defend their programs, saying research is available to counter the recent study, and that programs significantly impact the lives of young people for the better.

Still, other Utahns agree with the study's findings, which were presented to Congress two weeks ago. They said the short-term methodologies of some projects are simply "Band-Aid" approaches to the problem of crime, especially with juveniles.

The congressionally ordered report also questioned the effectiveness of the nation's huge prison construction program in the past two decades.

It did find promising results for some programs, particularly intensified police patrols in high-crime areas, drug treatment in prisons and home visits by nurses, social workers and others for infants in troubled families.

Still, the study found that it remained difficult to assess federal crime-prevention programs because there is so little rigorous, scientific evaluation of them.

The research set out to determine the effectiveness of the more than $3 billion in Department of Justice grants that are allocated annually to help local law-enforcement authorities and community groups prevent crime.

It reported programs tended to be short-term and did not fundamentally change the thinking or behavior of troubled young people or improve the conditions in which they live.

Speaking about midnight basketball, Salt Lake Police Sgt. Chuck Gilbert agreed.

"The problem is it only lasts during basketball season, and there's not a lot of follow up with the kids," said Gilbert, who heads the Salt Lake Metro Gang Project.

"It's a recreational program made available when there's not a lot going on," he added. "It's only there to fill their time. What they need are programs with long-term effects. Late-night ball is a Band-Aid approach to the problem."

But the city's Late Night Basketball instigator, Mayor Deedee Corradini, had another take.

"The research is now showing about how critical mentoring is for at-risk youth," said Corradini, who implemented the project just two months after taking office in 1992. "Late Night Basketball has a very strong mentoring component. It teaches them discipline and how to work as a team."

The mayor said her program is funded by private donors and local corporations, not with federal money - a major difference with basketball crime prevention programs in other cities. For years, Corradini has held an annual spring gala to raise funds.

"We have had corporations committed not only with their dollars, but with their employees," she said, adding that Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller allows championship games to be played rent-free in the Delta Center.

Also, the University of Utah put out a study on Salt Lake's basketball program two years ago to see if it was making a difference.

They found "that it is, it does (make a difference)," Corradini said.

Gilbert admitted the basketball program wasn't all bad but said it was hard to quantify the success of the program because all types of kids are involved.

"It can't hurt, but as to how much it helps, I don't know. I mean how many are actually at-risk kids are playing out there and how many are regular kids not involved in gangs?" he asked.

Other Utah officials agree success or failure of the various programs is hard to gauge.

Gary Webster, who directs a "work" program for Youth Corrections in Utah, said he's not surprised the study found boot camps don't work.

"Boot camps, when they were originally considered, met more of a community need for just desserts. But in designing correctional programs, you have to design the programs for the offenders," Webster said.

Utah doesn't have any youth program directly comparable to boot camps, which are heavy on regimentation and discipline. The Genesis program, opened in 1994, is a work program, where teens from 14 to 18 work for up to five hours a day.

Judging how effective any program is for crime prevention is difficult, Webster said.

"If I had the answer to what worked for juvenile crime prevention, I'd be a rich man," Webster said. "I don't think there is any one answer."

The effectiveness of a program, such as neighborhood watch groups, is nearly impossible to account for numerically, said Salt Lake County sheriff's crime prevention officer Bill Morris.

When neighbors band together, often the number of reported crimes will increase in an area where they previously went unreported. That, however, wouldn't show the real benefit of community watch: a neighborhood's peace of mind.

"This is not the first time I didn't agree with Congress," Morris said with a laugh.

In his experience, violent crimes do decrease in an area with a community watch program.

"It's difficult to put a number on it. But, I could give you a number of people who would say, `in our view it's working in as far as a peace of mind for a neighborhood," Morris said.

The study's findings on prison construction and drug education classes in schools are most likely to produce criticism.

The drug education program, called Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, was founded in Los Angeles in 1983 and is now used in about 70 percent of the nation's public schools. The classes warn about the dangers of drug use and are taught by uniformed police officers instead of regular teachers.

The program, usually given to fifth- and sixth-graders, is extremely popular with parents. But the report said repeated evaluations had found that its "effects on drug use are, except for tobacco use, nonsignificant."

For Shannon Andersen, who work's with Salt Lake School District's Safe and Drug-free Schools Program, "projects like DARE work, or we wouldn't have any part of them.

"When we talk about prevention, it's usually placed under this huge umbrella," she said. "From drug use to teen pregnancy to gang involvement. When we train, our prevention efforts are geared toward the resiliency of kids. That is, we need to treat them well, getting them involved in activities that are good for them."

Denise Gottfredson, a professor of criminology at Maryland and a co-author of the congressional study, said: "DARE has its good points. It's in 70 percent of our schools, so I would never recommend stopping it."

But the trouble with DARE, she said, is that it "doesn't have as much a focus on developing social competency skills," like teaching students how to make decisions, solve problems and learn to read emotions.

Andersen said the responsibility of teaching those skills falls with families, but when the family structure breaks down to the point of categorizing kids "at-risk," then schools play a bigger role.

"We can only do so much for them here, but we do train our teachers in that regard," she said. "One of the biggest things we can teach is for the kids to respect at home. As the Salt Lake District population becomes more at risk - socioeconomically, ethnically - we continue to take steps toward social skills."

Andersen said district officials were meeting in St. George this week to address the very topics the recent study has come out with.