Mayor meets with ‘peace ambassadors’ in gang program

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Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — With the 2021-22 fiscal year budget increasing funding to the city’s Gang Reduction and Youth Development Program by a third, Mayor Eric Garcetti met with the program’s new recruits late last month who will be using engagement strategies to reduce violence in their communities.

Strengthening the human bonds in the neighborhoods we serve is essential to public safety, and that work starts by empowering the people who have earned the trust of their community,” Garcetti said. “Keeping people safe isn’t just a job for law enforcement — it’s a shared responsibility for all of us. That’s why we’re making unprecedented investments in alternatives to policing that reinforce our commitment to a community-based approach to re-imagining public safety.”

Garcetti met with the program’s new peace ambassadors at the South Los Angeles Sports Activity Center, where they are being trained in violence de-escalation. Each new recruit is mentored by an experienced intervention worker in the program. They work to reduce violence by conducting outreach within their own neighborhoods, monitoring crime hot spots and hosting outdoor events to build relationships with the community and foster conversations and peace.

Aqeela Sherrills, executive director of the Community Based Public Safety Collective, called the program “a proven model” and said the city will save lives by putting resources into its communities.

A key priority in 2019 was to transform public safety by implementing community-based solutions that keep residents safe without over-policing,” City Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson said. “This is exactly what we did through the South L.A. Community Safety Initiative — it champions an unarmed crisis response to mitigate violence in our parks and neighborhoods.”

During the 2020-21 fiscal year, 40 new intervention workers were added to the program, according to Garcetti, who said the number was doubled this fiscal year thanks to an additional $33 million allocated to the program.

The number of violent crimes, homicides and shooting victims have soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, with killings reaching their highest level in more than a decade.

LAPD Chief Michel Moore told the Police Commission July 27 that Los Angeles has had 44 additional homicides and 250 additional shooting victims compared to the same period last year.

Large cities across the United States have experienced similar surges.

Los Angeles homicides increased 31.6% during the first half of 2021 compared to the same period last year, while New York City’s year-over-year increase in killings is reported at 10.9%, according to data compiled by Crosstown, a nonprofit news organization based at the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.

Chicago has reported 336 killings, which is similar to last year’s number but up 33% from 2019.

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