Under pressure to show that Los Angeles’s largest gang prevention effort, called L.A. Bridges, works, its operators of issued a study yesterday that fueled new debate about whether the city needs to rethink its anti-gang strategy, reports the Los Angeles Times. The data show that although some middle school students targeted by L.A. Bridges have boosted or maintained their grades and attendance, most did not improve last year.
L.A. Bridges officials consider the findings encouraging given the types of students they are trying to help. Some city leaders were more skeptical, especially considering that gang membership and gang-related crime in Los Angeles are on the rise. The program costs $14 million annually. Although there has been much focus on L.A.’s law enforcement push against gangs, the effort to keep youths from joining them has received less attention. The new report indicates that of the 1,786 “at risk” kids in L.A. Bridges who turned in at least two report cards last year, about 45 percent improved their grades. Grades stayed the same for 23% and declined for the rest. The city’s gang prevention and intervention effort is being reevaluated because gang crime increased 15.7 percent in 2006 compared with the year before, including a 4 percent increase in gang-related homicides, with 272 killings.