Gang Intervention and Prevention
“We need to come in here and solve this problem, not attack this problem.”
In South Los Angeles, many community-based programs are actively working on gang reduction and intervention. These programs, often run by members of the community, make the necessary links between gang membership and societal factors, such as poverty, high unemployment rates, family dysfunction, racism and a lack of positive role models and educational opportunities, using a variety of strategies to address these underlying causes.
In the Schools and After School
Many organizations offer a combination of prevention and intervention, centering their efforts on reaching youth. Based in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, Kush has been working to curb gang violence since 1999. Its employees are all former or current neighborhood residents who provide positive role models and an alternative to gang membership. Kush offers a gang intervention program that teaches life skills to gang members and young gang-affiliated parolees. Kush’s gang prevention workshops, “Kush Rites,” are tailored to local students and include a mentoring service.
The Venice 2000/H.E.L.P.E.R. organization has a slate of programs, including the Safe Passage program for middle school students and Venice High Safe Passage for students entering and leaving high school. Its Amer-I-Can program teaches self-determination and self-improvement skills. Founded by personal safety and conflict abatement instructor Aquil Basheer, who is featured in CRIPS AND BLOODS, Maximum Force provides gang intervention education to students and community workers, teaching high-risk youth the skills to act without violence in crisis situations.
Community-Based Grassroots Outreach
Unity One, Unity T.W.O. and Unity Three are part of a grassroots network of community-based organizations that work in various L.A. neighborhoods towards gang prevention and intervention, often working at the street level to decrease gang violence and sustain gang ceasefire agreements. Former gang member Bo Taylor, also featured in CRIPS AND BLOODS, founded the organization in the aftermath of the 1992 uprising. Unity One first reaches at-risk individuals through crisis intervention techniques, then teaches decision-making and life management skills to students, community members and detention center inmates.
Aqueela Sherrills, a gang intervention consultant with the Urban Leadership Institute, was raised in the Jordan Downs housing project and has been instrumental in establishing the Community Self-Determination Institute, a Watts-based social-profit agency that has helped sustain peace settlement between gang factions, and the Reverence Movement, a peace-based consulting company.
Advocates 4 Peace & Urban Unity (APUU) focuses on self empowerment and self sufficiency for local youth through community-based outreach and after-school activities. Members are associated with organizations like Venice 2000 and Maximum Force. Compton-based Project Cry No More, whose director Vicky Lindsey was featured in CRIPS AND BLOODS, provides crucial emotional and informational support to families and loved ones of homicide victims. The organization holds bi-monthly support meetings and monthly mothers’ potlucks.
Working with Law Enforcement
Former gang member Skipp Townsend founded 2nd Call to re-educate youth, facilitating life management skills training in L.A. high schools. Townsend has also helped train Los Angeles police and fire department members in gang intervention.
Central Recovery and Development Project (CRDP) is a nonprofit, anti-crime organization founded in 1991. In addition to the CRDP’s gang intervention and mediation programs, the organization partnered with local church members to organize the “Stop the Killin’” campaign in 2002, staging community actions at the sites of gang-related homicides in South L.A. CRDP has organized events, such as peace march vigils, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Police Department.
CleanSlate is one of several organizations, including Homies Unidos, offering tattoo removal services on an affordable sliding scale for former gang members who participate in one of its workshops. Removing a visible gang tattoo can be considered a physical reflection of “starting a new life.” Homies Unidos is part of a network of organizations focusing on gang intervention among Latino youth. The organization began working in L.A. in 1997, and also has roots in anti-violence work in El Salvador.
University of Southern California football coach Pete Carroll founded A Better LA, which sponsors such activities as Moonlight Basketball, a basketball league featuring players from a range of South L.A. neighborhoods. Although A Better LA was not founded by South L.A. community members, it funds efforts towards community building—the idea for the league was proposed by the organization Unity One.