Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has proposed a wide-ranging strategy to curb the spread of gang violence in some of the area’s most violent neighborhoods, the Los Angeles Times reports. The mayor said he would steer young people away from gang life by combining police suppression with stepped-up prevention and intervention programs. Villaraigosa will name a gang czar in his office and target eight “gang reduction zones.
The mayor promised to devote $168 million, including $15 million in new funds, in the coming year to anti-gang enforcement and to counseling, job placement, parenting classes and even tattoo-removal services. The funding requires City Council approval. Calling gang violence “the most important challenge we face,” Villaraigosa pledged to expand the anti-gang efforts to 10 additional zones, assuming he can secure an additional $30 million from the state. “Our strategy is tough on crime and tough on the root causes of crime,” Villaraigosa told the audience of 600 in a high-school auditorium. “Take it from a former high school dropout: Fighting gangs is fundamentally a question of putting people on a path to a productive life.” he added.