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COMMUNITY REPORT: Gang reduction program helps youth grow and develop

Christian Taylor could have chosen a very different path. Struggling at home and school, there was very little to stop him from following in his brother’s footsteps and joining a gang.

But something changed. During middle school, Taylor enrolled in our Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) program which delivers prevention and intervention services that save lives — and then turns them around. The program connected Taylor with a mentor and provided him with a support network placing him on a new, hopeful path. 

When we discuss crime, we often cite statistics and lives lost. Programs like Gang Reduction and Youth Development are a reminder that we should also talk about lives saved and the stories behind the numbers.  

Last week, I reported our annual crime statistics and was pleased to share that crime was down in Los Angeles in every major category. In 2018, our city had the second lowest number of homicides in more than 50 years. Additionally, we saw a 25 percent decrease in officer-involved shootings. 

These milestones are possible because of a years-long strategy aimed at reducing crime, developing and solidifying community trust and building a police department that is committed to relationship-based policing. Alongside these goals, we’ve instituted mandatory de-escalation training and a heightened emphasis on preservation of life — which includes a new award honoring officers who take extraordinary measures to avoid using deadly force in potentially dangerous situations. 

We’ve turned this corner on crime thanks to three factors. First, and most importantly, there are the incredible women and men of the Los Angeles Police Department who place service before self and put their lives on the line to protect and serve Angelenos. Second, the department has placed a renewed emphasis on building relationships of trust and focusing on transparency and accountability. And third, we listen to Los Angeles.

We heard that many Angelenos wanted a stronger police presence in their neighborhoods, and we responded by bringing civilians in to staff our desk jobs so we could get more officers into communities. In the last year, about 600 officers have been reassigned back on patrol — that’s over one million additional patrol hours compared to 2016.

The goal here is, of course, to drive down crime. But another equally important goal has been to recruit, retain and promote a diverse department because law enforcement is most effective when it reflects the city it serves. Working together with the LAPD and Personnel Department, we have increased officer recruitment and hiring. 

When you have a diverse police department, it makes it easier to build connections and create the trust that is essential to public safety. Programs like Gang Reduction and Youth Development are a vital part of this work. That’s why, in 2015, I expanded our work to add services to every one of the 23 Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones across our city. As a result, gang-related violent crime was down 10 percent last year in our Gang Reduction and Youth Development zones, and our Gang Reduction and Youth Development workers offered prevention and intervention services to nearly 7,000 youth and young adults — people like Christian Taylor.

Today, Taylor is thriving as a high school senior. He is vice president of his class and was recently accepted to 11 colleges. If you ask Taylor what helped turn his life around, he’ll tell you it was the Gang Reduction and Youth Development program. 

Statistics are important, but stories like Taylor’s best capture our progress as we work to build a stronger — and safer — city.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s “Community Report” column runs the first Thursday of every month in The Wave.

Contributing Columnist

By Mayor Eric Garcetti