"A Call To Action: Los Angeles' Quest To Achieve Community Safety" is a report and policy brief telling the story of L.A.'s extraordinary experiment to keep kids safe in the City of Los Angeles' worst gang zones, and laying out a new comprehensive set of recommendations. The document also explains Advancement Project's comprehensive violence reduction strategy and shows how it could be used in other communities suffering from gang violence. The report, assembled by Advancement Proejct's Urban Peace and Healthy City programs, highlights progress the City of L.A. has made toward greater public safety, and how to build on those successes to achieve comprehensive community safety in places where children are still exposed to chronic trauma and violence.
Five Years of Progress
In 2007 Advancement Project released "A Call to Action: A Case for a Comprehensive Solution to L.A.'s Gang Violence Epidemic", a roadmap that explained why Los Angeles' 30-year "war on gangs" was failing to quell gangs and gang violence and laid out a comprehensive set of recommendations to reverse course. Since then, Advancement Project has worked closely with City officials to put these recommendations into place.
Los Angeles has seen greater success in decreasing gang violence with gang-related crime reduced by over 15% and 35% fewer gang-related homicides surrounding neighborhoods served by the Mayor's Gang Reduction & Youth Development (GRYD) Office and by Summer Night Lights, a summer violence reduction strategy. In 2010 the homicide rate was at its lowest since the 1960s.
Success in significantly reducing violence can be attributed in part to the following:
- Catalyst to City's new approach to gang violence: Based on the 2007 report recommendations to create a central entity that manages gang violence prevention in areas where violence was concentrated, the City of L.A. created the GRYD Office to focus public resources where it is needed the most -- on 12 gang violence hot zones identified in conjunction with community leaders.
- Transformation of L.A. Police Department: The LAPD has transformed the way it deals with gangs, from an overbroad suppression strategy to relationship-based, problem-solving policing.
- Training gang interventionists: The Urban Peace Academy was established to train gang interventionists, the only publicly funded training program in the nation for gang interventionists. The academy has trained more than 1,200 gang interventionists and more than 400 police officers to work together, which has resulted in collaboration and shared accountability to achieve public safety.
In fact, efforts in Los Angeles have been so successful that other cities across the nation are working to adopt some of the strategies that have succeeded in Los Angeles.
Time for a New Call to Action
Despite amazing gains in violence reduction for the City of Los Angeles as a whole, there is still much left to do. We are not yet fully cured of this complex epidemic -- the conditions that spawn and sustain gang violence remain largely unchanged in L.A.'s most vulnerable communities. We continue to require holistic, systemic, and politically difficult solutions.
"A Call to Action: Los Angeles' Quest to Achieve Community Safety"explains why, despite these significant accomplishments, the City faces a number of ongoing challenges and opportunities for investment.
The Urban Peace program advocates for the leadership of the City and County of Los Angeles to publicly commit to achieving the following goals:
- GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: Government at every level must be held accountable for the basic safety of every child.
- SCALING UP PREVENTION, INTERVENTION, AND TARGETED SUPPRESSION: The City and County of Los Angeles must bring up to scale prevention and intervention efforts to meet the need in the hot zones in a culturally competent way.
- ACHIEVE FEAR-FREE SCHOOLS: Beyond Safe Passages to and from school, all students should attend public schools free of bullying, gang intimidation, and all forms of fear.
- REGIONALLY COORDINATED COUNTY AGENCIES: County agencies must cooperate with each other and with the City to achieve reductions in violence, trauma, and crime.
- BUILD A REENTRY NETWORK: The County must seize realignment as an opportunity to make coordinated, seamless reintegration a reality for its citizens returning from incarceration.
- EQUITABLE COMMUNITY BUILDING: These neighborhoods must receive the same capital, business, educational, and infrastructure investment from which affluent Los Angeles already benefits.
- CREATE VIABLE EMPLOYMENT: There needs to be an immediate economic and employment plan for the hot zone communities of Los Angeles.
Ending the public safety inequity that renders gang violence hot zone communities invisible to the rest of Los Angeles means we must provide youth greater alternatives that preempt gang joining. Political will is necessary to pull together a truly comprehensive solution with real government-community partnerships at both the City and County level, tailored to yield and sustain results for each individual neighborhood. Los Angeles cannot rest until every family and every child enjoy the first of all civil rights -- safety -- and the first of all freedoms -- freedom from violence.