Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will create a city anti-gang academy to train and license intervention workers, reports the Los Angeles Times. It will be the nation’s first such institution. The crucial component of L.A.’s anti-gang strategy was delayed for months because of conflicting visions for the school. The academy will be run by the Advancement Project, a legal advocacy, civil rights and public policy group, and funded in its first year with $200,000 in federal grants.
The city-sponsored academy will train anti-gang workers in a program that oversees $20 million in annual intervention and prevention contracts. Anti-gang intervention workers, many of them former gang members, respond to gang shootings and other conflicts to prevent retaliation shootings and contain conflicts before they escalate into full-fledged gang wars. Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck said gang prevention and intervention, combined with police action, are an essential part of the city’s success in driving down violent crime to levels not seen in decades. L.A., with 40,000 gang members, has been blamed for spreading gang violence throughout the nation.