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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Gang Intervention Program: Secrecy, Plagued By Bureaucratic Bungling, Lacking Accountability

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Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 11:44 AM

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Witness LA and Spot.US deliver part two of a series on the city's, and more specifcially, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's $26 million anti-gang efforts, and it's not encouraging.

Reporter Matthew Fleischer indicates the city has put a lot of its hopes -- and nearly all of its intervention dollars -- in a program that involves using recent gang members to mediate between warring gangs. Turns out, simpler programs that give jobs to gang members might be the more prudent and effective route.

Here's a description of city's "proactive peacemaking" program, aka "hardcore street intervention:

GRYD's intervention model is based on Chicago's "CeaseFire" program, and it works like this: Local men and women-often former gang members who still have clout on the streets-are assigned to the GRYD neighborhood zone they are most familiar with, and instructed to sniff out threats of retributive violence between gang members and to try to broker truces between rival gangs. Intervention workers serve as both liaisons between gangs--a reliable means of transmitting messages between rivals--and information sources for the Los Angeles Police Department, with whom they have weekly meetings and are supposed to contact if a violent showdown seems imminent.

But there's no evidence this works. And a Rand study indicates it may have made things worse in Pittsburgh because it creates greater gang cohesion.

By contrast, Homeboy Industries, which provides training, placement and jobs for current and former gang members, lost $5 million in funding and had to lay off 427 employees, with the program's future in doubt, even though the results are more encouraging than the hardcore gang intervention.

One problem, however, the city hasn't received informed consent to collect data on the current and former gang members. Without that, outside groups can't study the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of programming.

As for last month's part one of the series, here's the money quote:

But beyond pure evaluation and data-collection screw-ups--of which there have been plenty--the Justice Report discovered gang prevention programs that may be systematically excluding many of the kids that most need their help and intervention programs that are based on a model that has little or no proven success. Further, the programs may fail to emphasize the most basic services that have been shown to help the men and women in LA's most violent, troubled neighborhoods leave gang life behind.

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