Anti-gang programs should be consolidated

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week While waiting, reality does not change; our communities suffer and hundreds of our youths die. Last year, there were more than 10,000 gang-related crimes and 308 homicides in the city of Los Angeles. We don’t need more studies. We need organization and action. A Department of Urban Affairs would bring much needed accountability and organization to the existing efforts by various city agencies to curb gang violence. It would consolidate programs so effective measures are supported and coordinated. Currently there are five departments or agencies administering 12 gang-prevention programs, six more administering 16 gang-intervention programs, and an additional four departments administering six combined prevention and intervention programs. This is a case of too many chiefs and not enough Indians. It makes it impossible for any one department to take responsibility for or to effectively address the issue of gang violence. The city spends a mere $26 million a year on prevention and intervention programs while it spends more than twice as much on suppression methods – containing the violence but not stopping it. All the while, the death toll mounts. And we waste millions of dollars locking up youths instead of investing in them and giving them alternatives to gangs through education and employment. A Department of Urban Affairs would allow the citywide adoption of two programs that are working in the San Fernando Valley: Communities in Schools and the L.A. Bridges gang intervention program led by longtime gang truce and peace treaty negotiator William “Blinky” Rodriguez. The program grew from a truce, called the Valley Unity Peace Treaty, which was signed by more than 75 gangs and in its first year helped reduce the Valley gang homicide rate from 56 to only two. It’s time again for that type of intervention. The recent release of an annual survey, “Perspectives in Pacoima,” found that the biggest problem in the community is the same problem the same survey found last year and the year before – the same problem that runs rampant citywide: gangs. In December 2004, Los Angeles City Councilmen Martin Ludlow and Tony Cardenas introduced a motion calling for the formation of a department that would coordinate all the efforts the city currently uses to deal with the problem. For over a year, the motion has been sitting. And now, city staffers are recommending that the city spend $500,000 to conduct a study. Why? So they can tell us that there is a gang problem in L.A.? What the city of Los Angeles needs is a Department of Urban Affairs, not another study. And while last Friday’s City Council vote on a motion by Councilmen Cardenas and Bernard Parks did add on three vital factors to this study – actual action steps to creating a department – we are still left waiting. As shown by the recent rise in gang-related violence, suppression is not enough. Communities in Schools, formed in 1994, keeps its focus on outcome-oriented programs such as education, community empowerment, peace building and juvenile hall intervention as well as job development efforts for at-risk youths in the San Fernando Valley. With the creation of a Department of Urban Affairs, we could consolidate and cultivate the programs such as Communities in Schools, which do work. We can show the city’s residents that gang violence reduction by intervention and the lives of our youths are important. We can keep our children from dying. Roberto Barragan is the president of the Valley Economic Development Center. Leticia Rodriguez is a junior at Stanford University studying political science and has worked at VEDC and the city of Los Angeles as an intern.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more