Funding of programs to fight gangs has steadily eroded throughout Southern California in recent years, even as authorities have come to recognize it as the region’s No. 1 crime problem, says the Los Angeles Daily News in an eight-part series on the problem. Among the major cutbacks in Los Angeles County:
* The Los Angeles sheriff’s Vital Information and Directional Alternatives intervention program that put 1,700 kids at 11 regional sites through intensive counseling, mentoring and living skills programs ended in July 2003 for lack of funding.
* The Los Angeles Police Department’s Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (DARE), founded in Los Angeles in 1983 to keep kids out of gangs and off drugs, was essentially dismantled in April so its 15 officers could be reassigned to other duties.
* District Attorney Steve Cooley’s successful Community Law Enforcement and Recovery (CLEAR) program, which assigns prosecutors to handle gang cases from start to finish, along with dedicated police, detectives and city attorneys, in selected communities has been decimated as federal and state funds have dried up.
* There no longer are city housing officers or Los Angeles Police Department foot officers patrolling the five projects in South Los Angeles, each home to entrenched, feuding gangs.
* Pomona – where California Highway Patrol officer Thomas Steiner was shot outside a courthouse by a 16-year-old gang wannabe in April, and where there have been 50 gang-related homicides since 1999 – has a gang unit of just two full-time officers.