Los Angeles has spent $100 million over 10 years on a gang-prevention program, even though it doesn’t track how many youths it keeps out of gangs and has been repeatedly criticized for not adequately coordinating with schools and police, reports the Los Angeles Times. Unlike efforts in other cities that have been held up as models by the federal government, L.A. Bridges lacks a system for determining whether its clients are involved in gangs, so there is no way of knowing whether the program works.
The program has come under growing scrutiny at City Hall as Los Angeles and U.S. authorities have launched a new gang crackdown. Critics point out that in 2006, gang crime increased 15.7 percent over the year before. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has vowed to increase funding for intervention programs, saying the crackdown can’t focus solely on law enforcement. He is limiting funding of L.A. Bridges through September while officials try to assess its effectiveness. Studies have urged L.A. Bridges to shift to the model used by Chicago, Riverside, Mesa, Az., and other cities, which emphasizes close coordination between multiple agencies and measurable results. Those programs were designed under the stewardship of Irving Spergel, a sociologist at the University of Chicago. “The secret of success,” Spergel said, is to have probation officers, community organizations, the police and ex-gang members serving as intervention workers collaborating as teams in gang neighborhoods.