Friday, April 14, 2006

Gang reduction in Boyle Heights

I joined Mayor Villaraigosa, Councilmember Jose Huizar, Deputy Chief George Gascon, and Father Greg Boyle from Homeboy Industries in a press conference to announce a grant of $2.5 million to the City of Los Angeles
from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

The money will be used to in a comprehensive and coordinated approach to reducing youth gang crime and violence in Boyle Heights, specifically around the Estrada Courts area. Here are the basics of the program:

The "Gang Reduction Program" incorporates a five-pronged strategy in anti-gang strategies:
  • Primary Prevention: Targets the entire population in high-crime, high-risk communities at a one-stop resource center
  • Secondary Prevention: Identifies young children, ages 7-14, at high-risk of becoming involved in gangs and juvenile delinquency.
  • Intervention: Targets active gang members and their close associates ages 14-22.
  • Reentry: Targets serious and gang – involved offenders who face multiple challenges to reentering their community.
  • Suppression / Community Law Enforcement and Recovery Program (CLEAR): Gang leaders are targeted for aggressive suppression efforts.

Too often, when we say the words "public safety", it's as shorthand for police and fire. It’s easy for us to say those words and get people to think about men and women in uniform, who come after the fire starts, who show up at the scene of the crime.
But no one knows better than the men and women who put on the uniform that safety only comes from involving the whole community. At the news conference, I tried to address the young people there directly. To them , I said that safety means a community where you have an adult you can talk to when you fear that someone wants you to join a gang. Safety means you have a school where you can learn, and a job that, when you hit working age, lets you learn skills and see how you can become an adult in the society around you. Safety means that when you recognize your mistakes, your community still recognizes your humanity.
That last point is something that we are still learning how to do. We have had success in california at reincorporating parolees into our communities, allowing them to prove that they can turn their lives around. The recidivism rate in california was at 40% in 2003, lower than it has been in a quarter-century.

It’s vital that the gang reduction services will be provided by people like Father Boyle who are rooted in this community. In CD13, I have seen the Aztec Fire Crews work with young people at risk of joining gangs and show them their own bravery.

This is my message to the young people who are the target audience of this program: Many of you are looking for your toughness. You are looking for the hardness in your heart, because you think you need hardness to protect yourself.

Our promise to you is to show you that with your hearts open, you can see that you are much more than tough: you are brave.