Can you throw money at gang crime and make it go away?

Former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa believed that well-targeted gang prevention programs like his Summer Night Lights events at parks could reduce crime in L.A.

And now Mayor Eric Garcetti has picked up that torch, including Villaraigosa's $25-million-a-year Office of Gang Reduction and Youth Development, with what his office says are solid results:

In a statement today Garcetti's folks say the mayor raised an extra $1 million to keep Summer Night Lights open an extra three weeks this summer. Here's what it states happened next:

73.1% reduction in gang-related crime

100% reduction in gang-related homicides

87.5% reduction in shots fired

85.7% reduction in victims shot

83.3% reduction in aggravated assaults

Of course, drawing a direct line between a million in anti-gang cash and continuing reductions in crime, which has been shrinking at a fairly constant pace in L.A. for more than a decade, is an exercise in guesswork.

The mayor's office says that Summer Night Lights saved the city $9,655,376 in crime-fighting costs.

The extra cash Garcetti raised helped to expand the summer program, which allows some parks to stay open to 11 p.m. to accommodate basketball games and other activities, to the period lasting from August 16 to September 7.

Which is a little strange to us seeing that August is traditionally L.A.'s busiest month for homicides. Shouldn't Summer Night Lights have been shifted through the end of August originally?

Anyway, Garcetti takes credit for the program, even though it was one of Villaraigosa's hallmarks. His spokesman, Yusef Robb, told us, “We are committed to it and are definitely seeking to increase SNL funding.”

Here's what the new mayor stated:

As a City Councilmember, I created a program in 2007 called At the Park After Dark that served as a model for Summer Night Lights. As Mayor, I decided to extend this year's program because the numbers show it works in reducing crime in the communities most affected by gangs.

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