Gang Reduction and Public Safety

Mayor Villaraigosa’s recent article “Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Goingcomments on the current state of public safety in Los Angeles. Villaraigosa has implemented various gang-reduction plans to “carefully target resources to communities most in need to significantly reduce gang-related crimes” with great results—crime rates are the lowest Los Angeles has seen in decades. By encouraging a close partnership between the Los Angeles Police Department and our communities, gang-reduction programs have been widely successfully in working directly with families and neighborhoods to reduce gang activity.

Gang reduction and intervention initiatives such as Summer Night Lights, which now operates in 32 parks throughout Los Angeles, create safe environments for participants to engage with their community in fun block-party style outdoor activities, as well as find opportunities for employment. Many of the programs are set in neighborhoods prone to gang violence, so police are readily available throughout the parks to insure safety, and to give their support to their neighborhoods.

However, there are still youth within our communities that could benefit from more after-school, after-hours programs—more opportunities to be engaged positively. Better coordination between city services and the efforts by our police department, for example, would impact the very foundation of safety in each neighborhood.  A recent study led by Advancement Project and Violence Prevention Coalition finds that the lack of a comprehensive primary prevention infrastructure leads to a lack of safe public spaces and accessible services and activities. This means that we should be expanding gang-reduction and other public safety initiatives, in order to give the community greater access to and knowledge of such programs.

Innovative approaches to improving public safety—program expansion, service provision, etc. —can be costly, so we must find solutions that make such approaches affordable. It’s up to both our city government and the private sector to build partnerships that provide benefits such as job training and creation—a direct investment into our neighborhoods and our families that improves welfare and reduces the root causes of crime.

Crime rates in Los Angeles are the lowest they’ve been since the Eisenhower Administration, and Mayor Villaraigosa’s efforts to increase public safety have been noticed on a national level. However, we should not be satisfied with just lower crime rates. We can continue to strengthen our commitment by reaching out and expanding access for troubled and at-risk youth. We must continue to work together to address the root causes of crime, so that safety continues to improve for all Los Angeles residents.

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