A much-delayed, proposed countywide plan to deal with gang violence was presented to the Board of Supervisors Tuesday. The plan's strategy is to bring together regional agencies to suppress the violence while also attacking its causes. Eighteen months ago the county Board of Supervisors called for the development of such a proposal within 120 days, but has granted a number of extensions since then.
County staff members said the delays were due to the complex nature of the task.
"We're not looking for a quick fix," said deputy CEO Doyle Campbell when another delay was announced last March.
"We want to knock down this plague … it's not an easy task."
"I understand that people have been frustrated," said Tony Bell, spokesman for Supervisor Michael Antonovich.
"But this is a very large task and needs to be approached with a good deal of thought and consideration."
According to a memo from county CEO William Fujioka to the supervisors, the proposal involves:
– offering specialized intervention strategies for people who exhibit risk factors for gang membership or who are already in a gang;
– developing reentry and reintegration strategies for former gang members returning to a community;
– cracking down on hardcore gang members;
– ensuring that county departments coordinate when providing a variety of services to residents.
The strategy calls for the creation of the Los Angeles County Gang Prevention, Intervention and Suppression Coordination Committee to flesh out the specifics of the strategy. No price tag was immediately placed on the plan, though it will require the creation of one new staff position and staffing support from various county departments, Fujioka said in his memo. Before going into effect countywide, the strategy would first be tested out in the gang-troubled communities of Florence/Firestone and Pacoima.
David Sommers, spokesman for Supervisor Don Knabe, said that although Knabe's staff had encouraged him to support the plan, other troubled communities–like some in Knabe's district – also needed such attention.
"Our office isn't disputing that Pacoima and Florence/Firestone are already completely entrenched in gang violence and need help," Sommers said, "but we are concerned that not enough attention is going into communities that appear to be relatively stable, but still have significant problems … like Harbor Gateway."
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes several gang- plagued neighborhoods, said he would rather push forward with the pilot programs rather than delay the strategy any further by bickering over where the pilot programs should be.
"This is something that needs to be done, and needs to be done sooner rather than later," Ridley-Thomas said.
Knabe recently pushed the board to approve an overhaul of educational programs at county juvenile camps and halls that included creating charter schools within the probation system. Sommers said that building on those reforms would be important to the anti-gang efforts.
" … unless we look at these kids and the challenges they face in a comprehensive manner and ensure we can help them turn their lives around, we are essentially creating more gang members and state prisoners," he said.
Antonovich believes that cooperation with local community governing bodies, such as town councils, will also be crucial to the success of the gang strategy, Bell said.
"There's not a one-size-fits-all approach," he said, noting the wide diversity between the county's many communities.
If the initiative is approved, a more detailed plan will be sent to the supervisors for approval in six months, according to Fujioka's memo.